Johannesburg — There can be no denying that Kwagga Smith has done pretty much all of it within the sphere of rugby union.
The 29-year-old is a World Cup and Rugby Championship champion, a British and Irish Lions winner, a SuperRugby finalist and Currie Cup holder in XVs. Moreover, in Sevens, he is an Olympic bronze medalist and Commonwealth gold medalist having made 158 appearances for the Blitzboks on that circuit.
He might only have 19 Test caps to his name, but his experiences are vast and his knowledge of all facets within the game, deep.
Smith will be on the bench for the first Test against Wales on Saturday at Loftus Versfeld, along with debutant Elrigh Louw, as cover for a starting loose-trio of Siya Kolisi, Franco Mostert and Jasper Wiese. Having received his first Test cap some four years ago, he is then well-placed to give a surely nervous Louw some pointers.
Said Kwagga: “A few years back, in 2018, I made my debut and I know how much pressure I put on myself before that game.
“I have tried to keep Elrigh very calm this week and I told him that it is going to go really, really fast. When you close your eyes and then open them, the game will have passed.
For (Louw), it is just to go out and express himself and play like he did at the Bulls – just do what he does. He mustn't worry about too many other things because it goes by so quickly.
“Elrigh is a really good player and I am happy for him getting his debut this weekend.”
Smith currently plies his trade in Japan for Shizuoka Blue Revs and last played a game of rugby in late May. Despite this fact, Smith insists that he will be well-rested and ready to put out maximum output when he is called off the bench this weekend.
“We had a bit of a struggle with Covid at the beginning – a few games were cancelled at my club,” Smith explained.
“So, it was a slow start but it built up and by the end I played the full 80 in every game. I have had a month’s break now between the last game and this game coming this weekend, and I am really happy with my form in Japan and I really enjoyed playing there.
“This month was a good break for me after 12 games playing 80 minutes … and now two weeks of training, getting ready for this game, has been really good. I am excited for the challenge.”
Head coach Jacques Nienaber has gone with a 6-2 split on the bench, no doubt in an effort to bully the Welsh into submission up-front. Only two backs are therefore among the replacements – scrumhalf Herscel Jantjies and Willie le Roux, who will seemingly play a more utility role.
There is, of course, the possibility that a handful of injuries could throw a spanner in Nienaber’s plans, but Bok supporters need not worry – Smith and his Sevens skills could save the day in that unfortunate eventuality.
“I played Sevens for a lot of tournaments and there was a lot of space to cover there as well. It is the last go (playing in the backline) … but I am really keen for that challenge.
“I made my Currie Cup debut on wing,” he added. “If that challenge comes, then I will step up to it ... I will give my everything and try my best to contribute to the team.”