The Springboks will go to the World Cup later this year with enough Great Danes and Rottweilers in the team. What they need is a Fox Terrier, and his name is Kwagga Smith.
No other loose forward in South Africa is as adaptable and versatile as Smith, and no one has performed as consistently as the Lions man.
Few have made the same kind of impact for their Super Rugby team this year as the 25-year-old has for the Lions.
Smith is the perfect squad man – he can slot in at openside, blindside, at eighth man, and as an impact player from off the bench.
He gives coaches options, and sometimes that is more valuable than anything else.
In a Bok squad that will be filled with big bruisers at loose forward – men like Duane Vermeulen, Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit, perhaps one of the Du Preez twins, Jean-Luc or Dan – surely there has to be space for the small, speedy worker who runs all day and doesn’t stop digging, tackling, harassing and linking?
Bok boss Rassie Erasmus is believed to be considering roping in another “hardman” in overseas-based and former Western Province man Rynardt Elstadt in the build-up to the World Cup, to have a look at what he can offer the team.
But is he not the same type of player the Boks already have? Picking Smith wouldn’t even be a risk, such is his impact in every game... and he’s in the form of his life.
Smith, though, is not the only fringe Bok who has impressed in Super Rugby this season who should be making Erasmus think twice about who he’ll take to Japan later this year.
And it asks the question: Will the Bok boss be inclined to go more for players he’s invested in during 2018, or opt more for in-form players? How adaptable is he when it comes to selection?
Statistically, the best performing lock in South Africa is Lions man Marvin Orie.
And with there being some doubt around the fitness of Lood de Jager and now also Eben Etzebeth, RG Snyman and Franco Mostert look good to be certainties for Japan.
But why not give Orie a few more Tests in the Rugby Championship? Like Smith, he’s a worker of the highest order, and almost always delivers in a number of departments over 80 minutes.
Two other Lions players who’ve yet to get a national look-in, but are knocking hard at the door, are the front-line props Carlu Sadie and Dylan Smith.
With Malcolm Marx in between them, the Lions front row packs a mighty punch.
Sadie has been a revelation this year, while Smith has for some time looked an international player.
The Stormers’ Hershel Jantjies is apparently on Erasmus’s “have-a-look-at-list” for the Rugby Championship, and rightly so.
The scrumhalf has been wonderful in Super Rugby this year, and appears to have moved ahead of Ivan van Zyl and Embrose Papier in the pecking order.
But, when it comes to crunch time, will Erasmus be prepared to take a chance on a rookie No 9? Overseas-based Cobus Reinach has also enjoyed a fine season, and will bring experience to the Boks.
Two other players who’ve ticked all the right boxes in 2019, but have so far not been fully backed by Erasmus, are the Bulls’ Lizo Gqoboka and the Sharks’ Curwin Bosch. Both men, like some of the others mentioned here, deserve to be rewarded for putting in quality, consistent performances in Super Rugby this year.@jacq_west