Kwagga fully focused on Sevens as Blitzboks prepare in Dubai
Sevens stalwart and emerging 15s star Kwagga Smith doesn’t see a return to the Blitzboks as a step backwards in his ambitions to becoming a full Springbok international‚ but rather a stepping stone towards it.
Smith‚ who will play in his 29th World Series tournament in Dubai this weekend‚ made his reputation in the shorter version of the game.
But after some stellar performances for the Lions in Super Rugby and Currie Cup‚ as well as a man-of-the-match performance for the Barbarians against the All Blacks earlier this month‚ he is on the cusp of full international recognition.
Those thoughts though‚ are on hold as the Blitzboks begin the defence of their World Series crown in the desert.
After dominating last year’s series with five wins in the 10 tournaments and eight final appearances‚ Smith and his teammates know that they are the side everyone wants to beat.
“It’s great to be back in sevens because it’s a place where you can grow and where you become a better rugby player‚” Smith said.
“The hunger to do well is definitely still there. I always want to go well for my brothers in the team and also for the young guys coming in for the first time.
“My focus is totally on the sevens for now.
"I’m playing the first four tournaments and then I will return to Super Rugby where I will try to become a 15 Springbok.”
Smith‚ like record try-scorer Seabelo Senatla‚ will only play the first four tournaments of the season.
But if all goes according to plan‚ the Blitzboks will bank a healthy number of log points before losing two key players.
Coach Neil Powell has been hard at work with the squad at their Stellenbosch base in the off-season‚ plotting how to stay ahead of the chasing pack while also trying to manage their squad.
With a Commonwealth Games gold medal to defend and a World Cup in 2018‚ the Blitzboks have their work cut out for them.
“Squad rotation is key for us‚” Powell said.
“It’s the mental challenge as well as the physical.
"We want to be getting to San Francisco next July in good physical shape and be up for winning it mentally. People forget that it’s both elements that are essential.”
South Africa are up against Canada‚ Kenya and invitational team Uganda in Pool A in Dubai. It's the first step of a season that will culminate the World Cup in San Francisco.
“We can’t underestimate anyone‚” Powell said.
“We are the reigning champions.
"There is a responsibility with that and we are expected to come out strong in Dubai.
"We will be giving it our all.”