At the start of the year three very prominent players gave up the chance of representing their country at the Commonwealth Games, in the hope of becoming Springboks in the 15-a-side code.
Only one of the trio realised that dream.
Albertus Smith, Seabelo Senatla and Tim Agaba decided to step away from the abbreviated code, Sevens, and pursue a fulltime career in the 15-man game.
After limited game time, mainly the result of injuries, Senatla recently returned to Sevens and will feature for the BlitzBoks at the London Sevens this coming weekend.
Agaba, it appears, has fallen between the cracks. He has had limited game time at the Bulls in Super Rugby and has been ruled out of action for the remainder of the season after undergoing an operation for a torn bicep.
Ironically Agaba suffered the injury while playing for the Blue Bulls in the second tier domestic Challenge Cup competition. He was sent down to the lower league to get game time, because at that stage he had made only one start for the Bulls in Super Rugby.
Smith, it seemed, was destined for the same fate – getting lost between the two codes – after a less than auspicious start to the year.
However, in the last few weeks he has hit a rich vein of form and at the weekend was named in the Springbok squad for the June internationals against Wales and England.
There is no guarantee that Smith will be capped, but as the only genuine openside flank in the 43-man squad, you have to think he will feature at some stage in the next four weeks.
While there are still the cynics who question his inclusion, the statistics from his last two matches back up the faith his coach and captain have in him.
His carries are far more effective than he is given credit for by the naysayers, who suggest he is a lightweight.
Smith’s tackle count is right up there with the best in Super Rugby. He is in the top 10 of most successful tackles.
And while he has not stolen as many balls on the ground as the pundits would like him to, he has made a handful of crucial turnovers in the last few weeks.
This past Saturday, in a crucial 26-23 win over the Stormers at Newlands, he stole a ball on his own tryline, right at the death – which saved the match for his team.
Lions coach Swys de Bruin, who will be joining the Bok coaching panel during the June internationals, said they always knew that Smith would take time to adjust from the abbreviated version, Sevens, to the 15-a-side code.
“Kwagga is special,” the coach said – adding that they were willing to show patience as he converted from a Sevens to a 15-a-side player.
“What we did with him [Smith] is just believe that his position-specific skills are good [enough].
“Sevens is a different game – the space is totally different.
“It took a while and we knew it would take time in Kwagga’s case.”
Captain Franco Mostert said he felt Smith is the best openside flank in the country.
“Just to have that guy in your side, he brings so much [that is] positive in [the team],” the Lions skipper said.
“He doesn’t talk a lot, but he shows it through he actions.
“He gives 110 percent in every game.
“He is the best No.6 [openside flank] in my opinion.”
Both Mostert and Smith will head to Washington D.C. with the Springboks to take on Wales before their three-Test series against England.
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