Commonwealth Games, World Cup on Smith's list

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman in Japan

Kwagga Smith has played in Commonwealth and Olympic Games, but the South African Sevens star has his sights set on the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Smith, who arrived with the Blitzboks this week ahead of Sydney 7s, will return to 2017 Super Rugby runners-up Lions after the New Zealand leg of the World Series, his second season mixing the formats.

The openside flanker, who is a Sevens forward, made the return to XVs with ease last year, a critical part of the Johannesburg side.

Just 24, Smith said his decision to start his professional career in Sevens had helped him progress faster, with a Springboks jersey the next on his list.

Kwagga Smith has starred for the Blitzboks. Photo: Getty Images“For me as a player the Sevens is the best thing I could have done in my career because you learn a lot and you get into a senior setup like this from the start when you're 18 years old, where if you go to clubs, you only start getting into the senior setup from 21,22 years old. It's been also for me - sevens helps when you go to XVs and XVs helps when you come to 7s. All in all, it makes you a better rugby player.

“Definitely (being a) loose forward and playing forwards at the sevens, definitely helps,” he said.

“I think you bring your physicality from the XV man game but also then you take your speed and your vision and your agility from the Sevens to the XV man and that affects you there.”

He was overlooked for national XVs honours in his first Super Rugby season, but his classy form for the Lions would not have hurt his chances down the track.

“Definitely for me, the XV man is my next goal, is the 2019 world cup coming up,” he said.

“For me, that's why I play Super Rugby, to get myself there, to give myself a chance to become a Springbok and hopefully this year I can give it my all in the Super Rugby and we can see what goes from there.”

Though he will be back with the Lions in a fortnight’s time, Smith could be in line to play at the Commonwealth Games in April, granted a release should he be selected.

Kwagga Smith in action for the Lions. Photo: Getty ImagesThe Lions are on a Super Rugby bye that weekend and then begin their Australian tour, fortuitous timing for Smith.

This weekend, though, his focus is firmly on helping the Blitzboks retain their Sydney title, with Smith highlighting the home side as one to be wary of.

Australia has pushed South Africa in their recent meetings, particularly in Australia, and the sides would be on track to possibly meet in the cup semi-final stages this weekend.

“Australia's definitely a team that's hard on the breakdown,” Smith said.

“So they’re good with turnovers and they're a team that never stops working.

“In sevens that's really a great thing because some of the teams might put up a few points and they think it's good enough.

“In Sevens anything can happen in two minutes.

“For them, they're really a great hard-working team and I must give it to them on the turnovers at ruck time, they're also very good.”

The Sydney 7s kicks off on Friday January 26, running until Sunday January 28. Buy tickets here.