Currie Cup

Bulls pivot Chris Smith on vital Newlands kick: Rugby is about making amends

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Chris Smith (Gallo Images)
Chris Smith (Gallo Images)
  • Chris Smith provided a glimpse of his proverbial big match temperament with his winning kick for the Bulls over Western Province last weekend.
  • The 26-year-old has been impressive in handling expectations in the shadow of Morne Steyn as well as recovering from his missed kick in Bloemfontein a few weeks ago.
  • Smith has also embraced Steyn, who's been a willing mentor for him.

"We play rugby to sometimes make amends."

Bulls flyhalf Chris Smith embodies that statement.

Even though Jake White didn't make too much of a fuss about it, his previous meeting with the Cheetahs didn't go all that well.

Saddled with a game-tying conversion at the Free State Stadium in the second round of Super Rugby unlocked, the 26-year-old missed as his team suffered their only defeat of the campaign by 17-19.

"Morne Steyn had kicked well in that game and I knew that the possibility existed that I would come on later," said Smith.

"As a replacement, you know you're going to be exposed to the big moments and you obviously want to stand up. Unfortunately, I pulled the kick but I learnt a lot from it and kept looking forward."

About five weeks later, Smith made a massive statement in a game with arguably higher stakes.

Seemingly destined for another defeat at Newlands, the pivot launched a brilliant cross-kick to replacement back Marco Jansen van Vuren, who dotted down, tying the scores at 20-all.

Smith placed the kicking tee near the left touchline, didn't waste too much time and nailed the conversion.

"It was a very special moment in my career, an awesome feeling. I'm very chuffed it went over," he said rather pithily.

It's pretty easy to understand why.

Not only did he slay his demon from Bloemfontein, his kick meant the Bulls had clinched a Currie Cup win at the hallowed ground for the first time in 11 years.

"It was a good feeling to do something special at Newlands," said Smith, who went to school at nearby SACS.

"I think I was like 15-years-old when Morne put over that winning kick (in 2009's Currie Cup semi-final). It really was an incredible feeling to win there again."

Adding to the magnitude of Smith's contribution last weekend is the fact that he's been subject to quite high expectations as Steyn's designated understudy.

Those expectations have merely skyrocketed as the Bulls and Steyn's form surged over the past few weeks.

"Morne's been playing incredible rugby this season. He's probably the in-form No 10 in the country," said Smith.

"The best I can do is to be a sponge. It'd be silly if I didn't learn from a Springbok legend. I observe him and listen to him, following his every move on the field. 

"It's been fantastic. Morne's taken me under his wing. I'm lucky to have him as a mentor."

But it hasn't just been Steyn's support that's seen Smith come into his own in the past fortnight.

"I have great teammates around me," he said.

"There are Bok scrumhalves in Ivan (van Zyl) and Embrose (Papier) that take pressure off me.

"Coach Jake has also been great. He told me that I'm his designated No 10, that I need to take control and be the conductor. It gave me a lot of confidence."

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Sat 23 Jan 21 14:00 PM (SAST)
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