Chris Smith of the Vodacom Bulls during the 2020 Super Rugby Unlocked game between the Vodacom Bulls and the Phakisa Pumas at Loftus Versveld in Pretoria on 21 November 2020 Photo: Christiaan Kotze/BackpagePix
Chris Smith of the Vodacom Bulls during the 2020 Super Rugby Unlocked game between the Vodacom Bulls and the Phakisa Pumas at Loftus Versveld in Pretoria on 21 November 2020 Photo: Christiaan Kotze/BackpagePix

Bulls match-winning flyhalf Chris Smith took the long road to top flight rugby, but it was worth it

By Ashfak Mohamed Time of article published Dec 2, 2020

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CAPE TOWN - Bulls flyhalf Chris Smith is a man of many talents. Not only is he an accurate goal-kicker that can win rugby games, he also possesses a BCom Honours degree from Stellenbosch University.

And he knows how to install air-conditioners… “I didn’t play Craven Week or Academy Week, so I didn’t get the same exposure that those players got. I was training sort of on my own, and installing aircons at that stage!” the 26-year-old said during an online press conference yesterday.

Lining up the decisive conversion at Newlands on Saturday almost brought Smith’s career full circle. He had gone through that process many times on his SACS school field not too far from Boundary Road, and was hoping to do it for Western Province and the Stormers.

But it didn’t quite work out, with a WP Institute stint resulting in a few games for the Under-19s and not much else. So, Smith made his way to Maties, where he combined his studies with rugby.

He said that success wasn’t immediate there either, as he had to play mainly off the bench for four seasons before coach Hawies Fourie handed him the No 10 jersey in the 2018 Varsity Cup, and the Maties claimed their fourth title.

Smith moved on to the Pumas, where he was the top points-scorer in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge.

Now he’s in Pretoria, and loving it. Back to that match-winning touchline conversion at Newlands, especially after missing an easier one to draw the Cheetahs game in Bloemfontein…

Chris Smith of the Vodacom Bulls during the 2020 Super Rugby Unlocked game between the Vodacom Bulls and the Phakisa Pumas at Loftus Versveld in Pretoria on 21 November 2020 Photo: Christiaan Kotze/BackpagePix

“Probably a very special moment in my career, and awesome feeling. Very chuffed that that one went over,” Smith said.

“That one against the Cheetahs was obviously… Morné (Steyn) had kicked well at the start of the game, and get put on and those big moments are going to come. You want to stand up in those moments, and unfortunately, I couldn’t stand up in that moment.

“It (the kick against WP) was a bit of a blur, but I thought that I had put in the prep. I had kicked well in the captain’s (practice) and in the warm-up. So, it was just the classic cliché, just stuck to the process, made sure I kept my head down, and luckily, it drifted in.”

But it remains to be seen whether he will retain the No 10 jersey for Saturday’s Currie Cup clash against the Cheetahs at Loftus Versfeld (4.30pm kickoff), as he confirmed that Steyn is back at training after missing out on the last two matches due to Covid-19 protocols.

“Ja, Morné is back in the training group, but I’m not sure of the team selection going forward. But it’s obviously great for the Bulls team to have Morné back training,” Smith said.

“I’ve absolutely loved working with Morné. I am just sponging off him every day, and just as much as he is a Springbok legend, he is an even bigger legend off the field. Incredible man, incredible guy… jeepers, learning from him daily.”

@ashfakmohamed

@IOLSport

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