JOHANNESBURG - There is no Warren Whiteley - who is out of the Lions’ Super Rugby campaign with a pelvic injury - but there is always Kwagga Smith to excite the fans. And, boy, did he do just that at Ellis Park on Saturday.
He’s arguably one of the smallest flankers in world rugby, but he packs a big punch and what he lacks in size me makes up for with speed and skill. No wonder he was such a star on the world Sevens circuit.
Smith moved from Sevens to XVs at the start of the year and while he didn’t initially make the Lions’ starting side - having to play behind Jaco Kriel - he got his chance when Kriel cried off with a knee injury in early May. And he hasn’t looked back. He formed a powerhouse trio with Whiteley and Ruan Ackermann and now with Whiteley injured and Kriel back in the mix he’s just as devastating with the No 7 on his back.
He’s been Man of the Match in a good number of the matches he’s played in and on Saturday against the Sunwolves, in the Lions’ 94-7 victory, he again grabbed the attention with two scintillating first half tries. He said the players were hungry to play again after the month-long break.
“I thought it would be a tougher game ... but we were also hungry to play again,” he said after his team’s 14-try romp.
“After a month away from each other where everyone went their own ways we all wanted to get back into the stride because this is what matters.”
Smith said he was enjoying the game-time. “It’s really easy slotting into this team. When Jaco got injured I said to myself, ‘this is my chance’. I’m enjoying it, but it helps when the team plays like this.”
Coach Johan Ackermann said he was chuffed that the new loose-trio clicked so well. “Kwagga’s really settled into XVs now and he and Jaco and Ruan combined well.
“But credit to Kwagga ... I think this is like his third award in a row, or something like that ... he’s made the transition from 7s look easy. May his form last, as I hope it does with all the players.”