Bloemfontein - This year is quickly proving to be a massive one for Cheetahs centre William Small-Smith, who is getting regular game time during Super Rugby while preparing for his wedding and honours degree.
After opening defeats against the Jaguares (34-33) and Stormers (20-10) at home, the Cheetahs achieved their first victory against the Sunwolves in Singapore after overturning a 31-13 deficit into a 32-31 victory.
Small-Smith has been a regular feature for the Cheetahs as he’s established an impressive centre combination with captain Francois Venter. Both players attended Grey College as schoolboys and also spent time together at the Bulls before moving to Bloemfontein.
Small-Smith is enjoying life with his new team after deciding to make the switch at the end of the 2015 season.
“I spent five years at the Bulls. I had a good time and learned a lot, but I decided to move to the Cheetahs for better opportunities,” Small-Smith told MyPlayers.
“In Pretoria, I felt like my career was at a standstill. I also suffered a few injuries, which made things even more difficult. I’m enjoying life at the Cheetahs. The guys have welcomed me and I feel at home here. I went to Grey College, so I know Bloemfontein very well. I’ve also played with and against many of the Cheetahs guys during my career.
“So far, I’ve played three full games during Super Rugby and it feels really good to spend so much time on the field. This is the first time I’ve played full back-to-back games in two years. I’m also enjoying the style of game the Cheetahs play. Back at the Bulls, you are discouraged to make the 50-50 passes and play according to structure, but here at the Cheetahs, you are encouraged to back your ability and take the opportunities that lie in front of you. That’s exciting. We’re working hard with coach Franco (Smith) and we are determined to make these plans work.”
Small-Smith added that the Cheetahs’ confidence was boosted with the win over the Sunwolves, but stressed the team will need to improve in specific areas of their game if they want to continue that success.
“We need to deliver full 80-minute performances if we want to get the desired results. We did well to record a comeback win over the Sunwolves. Singapore was hot and wet, which made the ball slippery, so the conditions were really tough.
“We made critical areas at the latter stages of the games against the Jaguares and Stormers, which essentially cost us those games. The guys are working hard at training to improve ahead of our game against the Lions.”
While Small-Smith is relishing his time on the field for the Cheetahs, he’s busy with exciting plans off it too. The 23-year-old completed his BCom Law degree through UNISA and is currently busy with his honours degree in taxation. He’s also tying the knot next month.
“Yes, it’s all very exciting. I’m getting married on 9 April and I dedicate time with my fiancé to plan the wedding. I’m also busy with honours. I believe players need to study because life still continues after retirement. Only 2% of players have the luxury of being financially sound for life when they retire. So players need to ensure they are qualified or have the networks to start a second career when they’re done with rugby.
“For me, it’s important to spend time away from rugby. I do what I can to relax. I play a lot of golf with guys like Francois Venter and Fred Zeilinga. My brother is currently in Grade 9 at Grey College, so my parents visit often and we spend some family time when possible.”
Saturday’s clash against the Lions in Johannesburg is scheduled for 17:05.
15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Courtnal Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Ruan Ackermann, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Malcolm Marx 1 Dylan Smith
Substitutes: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Cyle Brink, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Jaco van der Walt, 23 Rohan Janse van Rensburg
15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter (captain), 12 William Small-Smith, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Neil Marais, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Henco Venter, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Maks van Dyk, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Charles Marais
Substitutes: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Johan Coetzee, 19 Francois Uys, 20 Hilton Lobberts, 21 Boom Prinsloo, 22 Tian Meyer, 23 Fred Zeilinga
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