- Kwagga Smith has taken young Elrigh Louw under his wing ahead of the Bulls star's potential Springbok debut against Wales this weekend.
- The former Blitzboks and Lions stalwart has told his new teammate to relax and play his natural game, especially after he himself struggled with nerves on debut back in 2018.
- Smith is confident he can hit the ground running despite having last played competitively at the end of May.
That's been Kwagga Smith and Elrigh Louw's buzzword in the Springbok camp this week.
The former Lions and Blitzboks star has taken the 22-year-old Bulls prodigy under his wing after Louw was included in the match-day 23 for the first Test against Wales at Loftus on Saturday.
While that may sound like a pretty innocuous gesture given the culture of assistance within the national camp, Smith has taken a keen interest in his new teammate because he himself suffered an attack of nerves during his international debut back in 2018.
"A few years back, in 2018, I made my debut, and I know how much pressure I put on myself before that game," said the versatile, compact 29-year-old loose forward.
"I have tried to keep Elrigh very calm this week, and I told him that the game is going to go by really, really fast. When you close your eyes and then open them, the match will have passed."
Consequently, Smith believes the best way for Louw to get a feel for the intensity and tempo of Test rugby is to simply conjure up the play in the United Rugby Championship that got him here.
"Elrigh must just go out and express himself and play like he did at the Bulls – just do what he does. He mustn't worry about too many other things because it goes by so quickly," he said.
"He's a really good player, and I'm happy for him getting his debut this weekend."
In contrast, Smith hasn't been trying to topple Irish heavyweights like Leinster or stand in the way of a famous Stormers URC title march.
He's been engaged in a pre-season of sorts after finishing his commitments in Japan with Shizuoka Blue Revs.
There might even be an argument to be made that Smith might have the same challenge of getting used to the pace of the international game again, but this isn't exactly his first rodeo.
"We had a bit of a struggle with Covid at the beginning – a few games were cancelled at my club," he said.
"So, it was a slow start, but it built up, and by the end, I played the full 80 in every game. I have had a month’s break now between the last game and this game coming this weekend, and I'm really happy with my form in Japan. I really enjoyed playing there.
"This month was a good break for me after 12 games playing 80 minutes … and now two weeks of training, getting ready for this game has been really good. I'm excited for the challenge."
Kick-off is at 17:05.
15 Damian Willemse, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Franco Mostert, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ox Nche
Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Salmaan Moerat, 20 Elrigh Louw, 21 Kwagga Smith, 22 Herschel Jantjies, 23 Willie le Roux