Springbok loose forward Kwagga Smith says he is comfortable playing any position in the back row and will be ready to step into Duane Vermeulen’s shoes if required.
Fans will be more accustomed to seeing Smith on the open side of the scrum where he has traditionally played for the Boks and Lions. However, Smith is known for his versatility and the Springbok coaches have not ruled out selecting him in place of the injured Duane Vermeulen.
“I played eighthman the whole season in Japan, so that helped a lot [to develop] my game at No 8. I’ve played six and seven at the World Cup, and I played six against New Zealand in a Rugby Championship game. I’ve basically played all those positions.
“I’ll consider myself fortunate if I get a chance to play in any one of those positions, and I’ll do my best to fill those shoes and to perform in that position at that moment. I’m open to anything, and I’m working hard to [cover] all bases to ensure that I’ll be ready when the opportunity comes.
“There isn’t one position I prefer. I just want the opportunity to be on the field and play with my best mates. We’ve got a system where, if you slot into one of those places, it will suit the way you play. The coaches will assess that and see where they can put me.”
Smith will have stiff competition for the No 8 jersey as he is up against newcomer Jasper Wiese as well as Sale behemoth Dan Du Preez, both of whom are in the more traditional mould of a Springbok eighthman.
Smith’s success at the World Cup in Japan, however, may give him the edge over his compatriots as the Springboks seek to maintain continuity.
Assistant coach Deon Davids is playing his cards close to his chest and won’t give anything away in terms of selection.
“We are keeping an open mind in terms of our approach.We’ve got a few options available and have shifted players around during our training sessions and tested different combinations.
“We will do a thorough assessment of our loose forwards and of what our needs are within our team and, hopefully, we will have a clear understanding of what we want to do come Sunday and Monday for the next two games.”
Meanwhile, the talismanic Duane Vermeulen remains sidelined with a serious ankle injury threatening to keep him out of the entire Lions tour. Vermeulen will, however, link up with the Springbok squad in due course.
“Duane is busy with his rehabilitation. In terms of how his progress is going, we expect him to join our group in the next couple of weeks,” Davids commented. “We are looking forward to having him as part of our squad, with either an off-field or on-field contribution, sharing his experience.”