Kwagga realises life-long dream after horror Bok debut

Kwagga Smith (Getty Images)
Kwagga Smith (Getty Images)

Cape Town - When Kwagga Smith made his Test debut, he could not have known that he would have to wait over a year to earn his second Springbok cap. 

That 22-20 loss to Wales in Washington in what was coach Rassie Erasmus' first game in charge of the national side was not a good day for former Sevens star Smith. 

He was incredibly poor, with errors and ill-discipline marring what should have been a memorable moment, and he looked well out of his depth throughout the contest. 

With the Boks also boasting some serious depth at loose forward as the Erasmus era finally began to gather steam, it looked like Smith's window to make a play for the 2019 World Cup squad had closed before it ever really opened. 

That was until the start of the 2019 Rugby Championship, when the 26-year-old was included in the starting line-up for a trip to Wellington to take on the All Blacks. 

He gave a superb account of himself in that 16-16 draw, and was then one of the few survivors in the starting line-up for the title-clinching 46-13 win over Argentina in Salta two weekends later. 

Smith then came off the bench in the 24-18 win over the Pumas at Loftus, bringing his total Test tally to four. 

While his form this year in both Lions and Bok colours has been impressive, Smith would have been one of the few uncertain of his place in the 31-man squad for Japan. 

In the end, though, he cracked the nod ahead of Stormers brute Rynhardt Elstadt and he has now realised a childhood dream to go along with having represented his country at an Olympic and Commonwealth Games for the Blitzboks. 

"To know that I'm in the team is really a big honour," he said after being unveiled as one of the class of 2019 in Johannesburg on Monday. 

"It's a really awesome team and to be playing in the Championship was also awesome for me. It was the opportunity that I wanted, so it's awesome that this has come my way."

Smith said he tried his best not to pay too much attention to the speculation surrounding the squad announcement. 

"Luckily we had a bit of time off and I went to the farm where I don't read any media. That was the easiest way for me to get away from it," he said.

"This was a dream of mine since I was a schoolboy. So was the Sevens with the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games.

"It's just awesome to be a part of. It's something that everybody strives for. It's the ultimate in rugby, so it's just an honour for me."

Casting his mind back to that Test debut, Smith acknowledged that it had impacted him negatively at the time.

"It was bad for me just to play one Test. That's not who I am and I don't see myself as a Springbok if I've just played one Test," he said.

"I want people to take about me as a Springbok. It was just awesome that coach Rassie gave me a chance again.

"I think I've played well in Super Rugby for the last three years, so it was just to keep that consistency in my performance."

Springboks' 31-man Rugby World Cup squad:

Forwards (17)

Schalk Brits (Bulls), Lood de Jager (Bulls), Pieter-Steph du Toit (Stormers), Eben Etzebeth (Stormers), Steven Kitshoff (Stormers), Vincent Koch (Saracens, England), Siya Kolisi (captain, Stormers), Francois Louw (Bath, England), Frans Malherbe (Stormers), Malcolm Marx (Lions), Bongi Mbonambi (Stormers), Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks), Franco Mostert (Gloucester, England), Trevor Nyakane (Bulls), Kwagga Smith (Lions), RG Snyman (Bulls), Duane Vermeulen (Bulls)

Backs (14)

Lukhanyo Am (Sharks), Damian de Allende (Stormers), Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks, England), Warrick Gelant (Bulls), Elton Jantjies (Lions), Herschel Jantjies (Stormers), Cheslin Kolbe (Toulouse, France), Jesse Kriel (Bulls), Makazole Mapimpi (Sharks), S'bu Nkosi (Sharks), Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz, Japan), Handre Pollard (Bulls), Cobus Reinach (Northampton Saints, England), Frans Steyn (Montpellier, France)

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