- Strange as it sounds, Bok’s mentor Jacques Nienaber believes Kwagga Smith has the same skills as the man he replaces, Duane Vermeulen.
- The former Lions and Blitzboks star was a slightly surprising choice at No.8 for the first test against the British and Irish Lions.
- Nienaber believes Smith’s defensive abilities and poaching skills make him a suitable choice.
To many, it would seem counterintuitive, but Jacques Nienaber, the Springboks head coach, thinks Kwagga smith will in fact offer similar skills to the man he replaces, Duane Vermeulen.
The former Lions and Blitzboks star was a slightly surprising pick in eighth place for Saturday’s opening test against the British and Irish Lions, especially since he’s much shorter and weighs 22kg less than his illustrious teammate.
Yet while Smith won’t openly crush opponents like Vermeulen, Nienaber argues that his No.8’s vast experience against towering Pacific Islanders on the seven-a-side circuit makes him far more robust than some might think.
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“If we look at Duane he’s a big, heavy No 8 playing in a specific way. He’s a guy who could take and stop the momentum,” said the national coach.
“Kwagga actually does the same sort of thing for us, but in a different way. He comes from a mid-seven and is gaining momentum with his avoidance skills, which he learned at seven.
“Even there he had to face some great Fijian players so he developed his skills over the years. Some people might be wondering how I can say that, but he probably comes up with something similar for us, just in a different style and manner. “
The inclusion of Smith is also a feather in Vermeulen’s cap in terms of notoriety as a loose striker who plays towards the ball, something not always associated with the 1.93m and 117kg behemoths.
If anything, that’s the main reason Smith was selected.
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Kwagga Smith, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ox Nche
Alternates: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Rynhardt Elstadt, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Damian Willemse
British and Irish Lions
15 Stuart Hogg (Scotland), 14 Anthony Watson (England), 13 Elliot Daly (England), 12 Robbie Henshaw (Ireland), 11 Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland), 10 Dan Biggar (Wales), 9 Ali Price ( Scotland), 8 Jack Conan (Ireland), 7 Tom Curry (England), 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain, Wales), 4 Maro Itoje (England), 3 Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), 2 Luke Cowan -Dickie (England)), 1 Wyn Jones (Wales)
Alternates: 16 Ken Owens (Wales), 17 Rory Sutherland (Scotland), 18 Kyle Sinckler (England), 19 Tadhg Beirne (Ireland), 20 Hamish Watson (Scotland), 21 Conor Murray (Ireland), 22 Owen Farrell ( England), 23 Liam Williams (Wales)
“If you think of Duane defensively, he’s a good player to play, he has good poaching ability and can slow the ball down. Kwagga has the same skills but, yeah, it’s a slightly different look than we do. normally have it in the back row, ”Nienaber said.
A 2019 World Cup winner, Smith is not an unknown figure in top-level matches internationally, having featured for Rassie Erasmus’s so-called A-team combination in the 16-player draw with the All Blacks in Wellington.
And it was this experience that prompted Nienaber and co to entrust him with his role for the weekend.
“We’re comfortable with Kwagga, he also filled that role for us at the World Cup, and I can’t wait to see him play there,” said Bok’s mentor.
“People also forget that in 2019, when we played against New Zealand in New Zealand, Kwagga was on that team and teamed up with Duane when Siya Kolisi was injured. That’s the right thing. about Kwagga, it actually covers 6, 7 and 8. “
Kick-off Saturday at 6 p.m.