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“We know we can't speak on DRS (decision review system) or umpiring, but when it comes to guys' opinions on life, their future and their families and what they believe in, in the country, I don't see a problem.” -Photo by AP

CAPE TOWN: South African captain Graeme Smith on Wednesday defended opening bowler Vernon Philander's right to call for the reintroduction of the death penalty in South Africa.

Responding to public outrage at a spate of rapes and murders, including one in the small western Cape town of Bredasdorp, Philander tweeted: “Sickening to hear all the rape-murder cases taking place at the moment. Bring back the death penalty and see how these numbers drop.”

“Grown men have opinions on different matters in life,” said Smith.

“We spend a lot of time together so many things are discussed. There has been a lot of campaigning around rape and murder and sorting out the crime in South Africa.

“As role models in South Africa, we want to be a part of putting that right. Obviously Vernon needs to chat about his opinion, but all of us know our responsibility.

“There are regulations from ICC (International Cricket Council) and CSA (Cricket South Africa).

“We know we can't speak on DRS (decision review system) or umpiring, but when it comes to guys' opinions on life, their future and their families and what they believe in, in the country, I don't see a problem.”

There is no death penalty in South Africa and Lulu Xingwana, the Women and Children Minister, said on Tuesday it would not be reintroduced, although she said bail should be denied to two men accused of raping and disemboweling Bredasdorp teenager Anene Booysen.

Smith, meanwhile, voiced his sympathy for nine first-team cricketers from King Edward VII School in Johannesburg, his old school, who were victims of a lightning strike on Tuesday.

Five of the boys were kept in hospital overnight and two were reported to be in a critical condition.

“I grew up in Johannesburg and I know how lightning can be a scary thing,”said Smith.

“I have a relationship with the school and the first cricket side was something I played a part in for a long time. I will keep in touch and find out what is going on and maybe try to visit the guys when we go to Johannesburg.”

The boys were pulling a cover onto a pitch when lightning struck the field.

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