Blitzboks star Kwagga Smith’s skills could come in handy against the British and Irish Lions
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CAPE TOWN - KWAGGA Smith’s versatility perhaps counted against him at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, and he missed out on Springbok selection for the “big games”.
But ahead of Saturday’s first Test against the British & Irish Lions at Cape Town Stadium (6pm kick-off), the former Blitzboks star’s skills could come in handy.
That is because Bok coach Jacques Nienaber is set to be without No 8 Duane Vermeulen and possibly captain Siya Kolisi due to injury and Covid-19 isolation, respectively.
There was a boost in the looseforward department yesterday, with England-based No 8 Dan du Preez coming out of Covid isolation, along with hookers Bongi Mbonambi and Scarra Ntubeni.
But Du Preez hasn’t played since the end of the Sale Sharks’ Premiership campaign on June 19, and wasn’t able to train in the last two weeks, so it would be a surprise if he is included in the match-23.
Smith impressed at No 8 for South Africa ‘A’ in their 17-13 victory over the Lions last Wednesday, and put in another good shift in the 17-14 defeat to the Bulls on Saturday.
Apart from his usual play-making abilities and pace, Smith also got stuck in on defence and produced a high work-rate.
He could easily slot in at openside flank or No 8 in the first Test, while Jasper Wiese is also a candidate at the back of the scrum.
If Kolisi is ready to play and Nienaber opts for Wiese at No 8, Smith could make a terrific impact off the bench as well.
Smith admitted that SA ‘A’ underestimated the Bulls, and felt that the Boks need to focus on getting their basics right ahead of Saturday’s showdown with the Lions.
“For me it’s just to perform wherever I play. If I play eight or six or seven, every role’s different, but I want to execute the job of that role and obviously bring my X-factor in that role. Otherwise you could just get a robot to do the job … (I want to) bring that X-factor, and in this game, we lacked that a little bit,” the 28-year-old said.
“We (SA ‘A’ against Bulls) made a lot of mistakes – small drops and passes. Where we could’ve finished, the game could’ve gone the other way. For us, it’s just to go back. At least we’ve got game time now. We can do the analysis and see where we can improve and get ready for the Test matches.
“We need to focus on our systems. We haven’t been playing Test matches in almost two years. We’ve got together and started working on it, and now we have three matches of game time.
“I think that’s really good. We can take all that together and analyse it, and see where we can improve.
“I think for us, it’s to do our basics right and use every opportunity because in a Test match there aren’t many opportunities. When you get that opportunity, you’ve got to use it and score points and execute. We need to make sure we sharpen up and enforce our system on to them.”