As the Springboks prepare for their first test in the Rugby Championship against the Pumas on Saturday, one man’s absence from the group is glaring. With the inclusions of Cyle Brink and Marco van Staden, we have to ask: Is Kwagga Smith the elephant in the Springboks change room?
Kwagga’s Springbok Dream in Jeopardy
The Springboks have a depth at forward, of that there is no doubt. Just the thing one wants for a team that is infamous for crash ball rugby. Rassie Erasmus currently stands at a 50% win ratio as head coach, and would want that closer to 70% by the end of the tournament on the 6th of October. To do this, he is obviously concerned over a myriad of issues. Not least of which is player management in light of next year’s World Cup.
That means that anyone he wants to take with him to Japan should be involved in this year’s group, with the exception of a few superstars like Duane Vermeulen. Curious then when the best performing South African blindside flanker in Super Rugby isn’t part Erasmus’ plans.
Cyle Brink was released from the group on Thursday after sustaining an injury to his knee, but Kwagga Smith still hasn’t been called up.
The Elephant in the Springboks Change Room – Kwagga’s Stats
Smith beats Brink on almost every metric except for defense. While Marco van Staden also have the edge on defense only – missing only 16 tackles in 14 games. However, Kwagga’s attacking stats speak for themselves. He ran 734 meters in 18 games with 155 carries for the Lions. Not only that, he also scored 6 tries and made 168 tackles. In fact the only other player that had a bigger impact was the equally unlucky Blues’ number eight, Akira Ioane. He was also omitted from the All Black selection, which was always going to happen once Kieran Read returned from injury.
Changes in Position not Forbidden in Springboks Setup
Erasmus is moving the Springbok Captain, Siya Kolisi, to openside flank for this game. This makes room for Francios Louw to start on the blindside, so it’s clear that Erasmus doesn’t feel the number 6 jersey exclusively belongs to Kolisi.
Kwagga Smith in the meantime will play in Japan for Yamaha Júbilo during the final months of 2018. He will then return for the Lions in their 2019 Super Rugby campaign.
The Lions Rugby Company would like to confirm that the following players have all re-signed with the Lions:@Skosan14 Dillon Smit @SmithKwagga @AndriesC_Lions @R_Combrinck15 @Dy1Smith #LetsUnite pic.twitter.com/cqI2EaDW8K
— Xerox Golden Lions (@LionsRugbyCo) August 15, 2018
The man from Mpumalanga announced in March this year that he will quit Sevens for good to focus on becoming a Springbok. He did all he could to get Rassie Erasmus’ attention, sadly it seems it just wasn’t enough.
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