In 2019, Kwagga Smith – then playing in barely his second test for the Springboks – made more tackles than hard-bearded players such as Duane Vermeulen and Pieter-Steph du Toit against the All Blacks in Wellington.
The test ended in a draw (16-all) and a few months later the South Africans held up the Webb Ellis trophy in Japan.
Now the Springbok team plays again against its arch-enemy in Auckland this coming Saturday. And on top of that, it’s another World Cup year.
Just like on that day in Wellington, Smith will not back down for the Kiwis on their home ground.
“I love playing against the All Blacks. A game like that always brings out the best in me as a player,” said the loose forward during a media event in New Zealand.
The two proud rugby nations have played against each other 103 times with the All Blacks swinging the scepter 61 times. In contrast, the Springboks have walked off the field victorious 38 times, while four tests have ended in a draw.
Yes, it is a challenge to play against other countries, but a Springbok/All Blacks duel remains special.
“Personally, I think this is one of the biggest duels on the international rugby stage. The history and rivalry that accompanies such a showdown undoubtedly contributes to the greatness of the showdown.”
The All Blacks lost to the Springboks at the Mbombela Stadium last year, while they also lost against Argentina and Ireland.
However, Smith is adamant: The New Zealanders will always remain dangerous.
“New Zealand is a popular team and they will never lose their aura. It promises to be a very tough game and they will undoubtedly want to put on a solid performance in front of their home crowd.”
The 30-year-old Lydenburg native, who stands 1.8 m in his socks and weighs 91 kg, has previously been criticized for being too small to be an international loose forward.
Yet one of the greatest full-backs in the world, Fijian Nemani Nadolo, has already sided with Smith on Twitter. It’s not always the heaviest players that have the most impact.
In addition, Smith recently underlined his value to the Springbok group with a standout performance in Japan.
The loose forward was named the player of the season (division one) after his heroics with the Shizuoka Blue Revs.
Smith, who took the captaincy reins for his team, saw to it that his team missed the relegation trap.
The Rugby Championship Test between South Africa and New Zealand starts on Saturday at 09:05 and the action is broadcast live on SuperSport.