JOHANNESBURG - After a frustrating four weeks on the sidelines, Kwagga Smith says he’s ready to help the Lions continue their growth and development in the Currie Cup, and push for a play-off spot later on.
The hard-working flanker will return to the Lions team this weekend when they travel to Kimberley to take on Griquas in a Currie Cup match after completing his four-week ban for a dangerous tackle in the Super Rugby final a month ago.
Smith’s return is a massive boost for the young Lions team, which is missing several first choice players who’re either playing for the Springboks, clubs in Japan or are injured. They’re in bottom spot, with two wins from seven, on the seven-team points table.
“Yes, it’s been very frustrating not being able to play,” said Smith on Monday afternoon. “But, I took the first two weeks (of the four) off and spent time on the family farm near Lydenburg. That was good and very necessary as I realised I had hardly had any time off in the last two years.
“When I wasn’t playing Sevens, I was playing XVs with the Lions, in the Currie Cup and Super Rugby. So, while it wasn’t nice to watch from afar, my body has at least had a chance to rest and recover a bit. I’m very excited about playing again and, to be honest, I haven’t felt this good in years.”
But while the Lions will welcome back their hard-working and dynamic flank, they will this week again have to make do without a few more key players. Not only has tighthead specialist Ruan Dreyer left the team to join the Boks in Australasia for the Rugby Championship, but another front ranker in the team, Corne Fourie, is now also injured.
Fourie broke his wrist in the win over the Pumas last Saturday and while he doesn’t require surgery, he’ll miss the next six weeks’ of action, putting him in doubt for the remainder of the competition. The Lions have five regular season games left before the play-offs.
And, to complicate matters even further, it is understood experienced lock Andries Ferreira’s wife is expecting the couple’s first child in the coming days and he, too, may be ruled out of the trip to Kimberley on Friday.
“We’re a bit thin in experience at the moment, so I hope I’m able to add something to the team this weekend,” said Smith. “The team is on an upwards curve and the youngsters are settling nicely... getting used to the roles they’re expected to play and understanding the ways of the team, so hopefully we can pick up another win this weekend.
“Griquas though are always tough opponents at home and they’ve beaten some big teams this year and are playing some good rugby so it’s going to be another tough one for us. But I think all we must do is focus on our own game, cut out the error-rate, and we’ll be okay.”
The Lions have certainly missed Smith, who scored eight tries in Super Rugby earlier this year and was named Man of the Match on four occasions.
Smith will, like last season, complete the Currie Cup before returning to the Sevens set-up for the first four games in the new season. He’ll then again switch back to XVs for the start of Super Rugby.
Lions coach Swys de Bruin will name his team for the Griquas match on Tuesday.