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A South African sports star has lent his support to St Andrew’s patients in Essex who are limbering up to take part in a sports day there.



John Smit was the 50th captain of the South Africa national team and led them to the victory in the 2007 Rugby World Cup.

He has recorded a message to patients located on the Essex site in a bid to encourage them to take part in the forthcoming sports day on Wednesday, September 8 which is in partnership with the Southend United Community & Educational Trust (CET) and Sport for Confidence.

The 43-year-old former Springbok captain said: “I just wanted to give you guys a shout out for the amazing work that you do. I know it’s been a tough time for the entire world with the pandemic and everyone has their challenges to face. None more so than myself with a household full of children, trying to get them out, trying to get them to exercise and use sport as a tool to give them a bit of balance in life.

“Healthcare is an amazing thing but the combination of the mental and physical side is incredibly important. Together they really help us to keep a bit of a balance in life and a bit of perspective, especially in tough times like this. So to you all of you, well done for what you do and keep going.”

The sports day is being held to further encourage patients to get involved in physical activity.

Essex staff currently run regular weekly sessions on site and in the community and they have also introduced a Friday swimming session too.

They are registered as a cycling club with Cycling UK and service users are supported in developing road safety awareness and general confidence using bicycles on open roads.

Annymn Adams, Lead Occupational Therapist, said: “It has been difficult to maintain a robust therapy programme during this Covid-period, but I am proud of my team’s on-going commitment to providing regular access to sport and exercise sessions, both on site and in the community. As John said, physical activity is such an important part of our mental well-being.

“The sports day we’re hosting is an opportunity to promote physical fitness and well-being, celebrate the positive partnerships we have fostered with community based organisations and   acknowledge the continued commitment St Andrew’s staff has to provide holistic care despite the challenges faced during the pandemic.”

Annym – who grew up in South Africa – received the recording after asking a friend who works with John for a favour.

Annym said: “One of my best friends works for the non-profit organisation the South African Rugby Legends Association (SARLA).  Former Springboks and Provincial rugby union players work there and together they provide a platform from which retired professional rugby players can work with the development of rugby in previously disadvantaged areas.”

Southend United CET engages with people of all ages, abilities, backgrounds and interests. They use varied sports participation and education, training and community Cohesion schemes to reach people throughout South East Essex in a bid to get them moving.

Sport for Confidence is a multi-award winning organisation which places allied health professionals into leisure centres to support and deliver meaningful physical activity or sport sessions to anyone that faces barriers to participation.

To watch John Smit's video, click here