JP Smith has played for the Stormers and Western Province during a well-travelled career. Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

MELBOURNE – South African forwards see their Australian counterparts in Super Rugby as “soft” and ripe for physical intimidation, Reds prop JP Smith said on Monday.

South African Smith gave the blunt assessment as his team prepared to host the Cape Town-based Stormers on Friday. The Reds will then head off for a two-match tour of South Africa.

“I know what they think of Australian forwards generally,” Smith, a former Stormers player, said on Monday.

“Soft. That’s my honest opinion, that’s what South African (forwards think) because they try and bully us.

“If you take that aspect away from them, they don’t know what to do. If you take their forward play away, they’re very niggly off the ball and they like to intimidate you.

“And once they see you give in, they’ve got you, so it’s physical presence from the start – they want to dominate you.”

Smith and his twin brother prop Ruan joined Brad Thorn’s rebuilding Reds last season, having previously had a stint at the Canberra-based Brumbies.

Former All Black lock Thorn has been trying to bolster the Reds’ forward pack into one of the strongest in the Australian conference, but they took a step backwards in a 32-13 home defeat to the Melbourne Rebels on Saturday.

The loss came after two wins on the trot and served as a reality check for the Reds, who are languishing fourth in the five-team conference led by the Rebels.

Smith said the Stormers, beaten in Auckland by the Blues on Saturday, and by the Hurricanes in Wellington before that, would be desperate to salvage points from what has been a fruitless tour so far.

“They have two Australian teams left and it’s not always pleasant for those boys when they don’t win their games, so I think they’re going to target us this weekend,” Smith said of the Stormers, who finish the tour against the Rebels next week.

“These next three weeks playing against big South African packs is really going to test us.

“It’s going to test the depth of the squad as well... playing big South African props – 125-130kg is a big test, so we’re going to have to be very good.”

Reuters