Edinburgh are set to sign Lions and South Africa flanker Albertus “Kwagga” Smith as Rugby World Cup cover. The short-term deal is likely to hinge on whether Smith – capped once – is a surprise inclusion in Rassie Erasmus’ Springboks squad for the World Cup.
The 26-year-old was a key member of the Lions’ Super Rugby team, captaining the side twice, but missed the final match of the season with a hamstring injury.
A former South Africa Sevens player, he would join Edinburgh after the truncated Currie Cup, which is due to finish on September 7.
At 5ft 11ins and around 93kgs, Smith is a relatively small but extremely quick, explosive and powerful openside flanker. His capture would help Edinburgh offset the losses of Scotland’s John Barclay, Hamish Watson and Jamie Ritchie, all of whom are near-certain to be selected in Gregor Townsend’s World Cup squad.
In fact, Richard Cockerill could lose as many as five of his Edinburgh back rows to international duty during the global showpiece. Magnus Bradbury is also a strong contender to travel to Japan with Scotland, while Viliame Mata will be part of the Fijian squad.
As per reports in SA press and via @thistlerugbypod, Edinburgh are set to sign Lions and South Africa flanker Kwagga Smith on a short-term contract after the Currie Cup. The deal will hinge on whether Smith is a surprise inclusion in the Springboks RWC squad.
— Jamie Lyall (@JLyall93) June 23, 2019
Cockerill has already signed Scottish Brumbies lock/blindside flanker Murray Douglas on a short-term deal to ease that burden, with Australian loose forward Nick Haining joining from Bristol, but neither are specialist opensides. That potentially leaves Luke Crosbie as the only option at seven during the World Cup period.
A short-term deal at Edinburgh wouldn’t be the first time Smith has taken up this type of contract following a Super Rugby season. Last year he signed on for a stint at Japanese club Yamaha Jubilo before returning for the Lions’ 2019 Super Rugby campaign.
Smith played in 11 of the Lions’ 16 Super Rugby matches this term, scoring seven tries, the joint-second highest tally by a forward in the competition so far.
A product of the Lions set-up, he won his solitary Boks cap in Washington against Wales in June last year after foregoing the opportunity to represent the Blitzbokke at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in favour of pursuing XVs honours.
He already has a Commonwealth gold medal to his name, helping the South African side to victory at the Glasgow Games in 2014. And he was part of the bronze-winning Blitzbokke squad at the Rio Olympics two years later, playing twice for the Barbarians the same season.
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