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Ken Borland

Kwagga – branded as too small – up against ‘complete’ flank in Basham

Posted on August 10, 2022 by Ken

Kwagga Smith has been branded as being too small to be a Springbok loose forward in the past, but his all-round game has won him 19 Test caps and on Saturday he will be coming off the bench and possibly tussling with the player Wales believe is the complete flank – Taine Basham.

The two dynamic loosies are of similar size, with Basham having a slight edge of three centimetres in height and four extra kilograms. The 22-year-old Dragons star has shown his ability to do it all – he is a robust tackler, who doesn’t miss many; he’s effective at hitting the rucks, slowing the ball down or being the ‘Jackal’; and he is a tenacious carrier of the ball too.

Smith, seven years his senior, has seen enough to single Basham out as the Welsh player who has most impressed him.

“I watched a lot of the URC and the Welsh are generally really good at fetching or making turnovers,” Smith said at the Springboks’ Fourways hotel on Wednesday.

“I rate Basham and Josh Navidi very highly and it’s going to be a big challenge at the breakdown.

“Form this year can be different to last year, but Basham is playing really well and he played well at the end of last year too. He’s a guy I recognise as someone to watch.

“But I’m really happy with my own form in Japan too. After our first three matches were cancelled due to Covid, I played the full 80 minutes in every game for Yamaha Jubilo. So that’s 12 matches and I was pleased for the month’s break before this series,” Smith said.

While Basham, who has 10 caps, is still a relative baby when it comes to international experience, Smith has accumulated a wealth of different experiences. He is a Rugby World Cup winner, with an Olympics bronze medal for Sevens, and has played in all three back-row positions. Smith has even played Currie Cup rugby on the wing.

Smith even feels comfortable enough helping the younger loose forwards in the squad to adapt to the pressures of Test rugby. On Saturday he will have debutant Elrigh Louw alongside him on the bench.

“I remember in 2018, when I made my debut, I know how nervous I was and how much pressure I put on myself. So I told Elrigh that Saturday will go really quickly, in the blink of an eye.

“I told him he must just try to express himself and do what he’s been doing for the Bulls. I’m very excited for him.

“I think Wales will come out and give everything they have because to beat the world’s number one team is the best way to restore your name, and they definitely want to put right what happened in the Six Nations.

“But it’s going to be huge for us as well this weekend, Loftus Versfeld will be packed, which will be a big advantage. We play for our supporters and we’re looking forward to delivering a good performance,” Smith said.

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