Kwagga Smith has already earned a Rugby World Cup gold medal and an Olympic Games bronze medal, and now he is hoping to be part of a Springbok squad that will be triumphant over the British and Irish Lions over the next two months.
The 27-year-old loose forward, who plays for the Yamaha Jubilo team in Japan, was among a group of six players who kicked off the Bok preparations in Bloemfontein on Monday ahead of the first Test against Georgia on July 2.
Smith was joined by Jesse Kriel, Willie le Roux, Malcolm Marx, Franco Mostert (all Japan) and Frans Steyn (Cheetahs) for what SA Rugby called a “three-week conditioning camp”, where they started with a gym session and also had two field sessions.
Five players based in France – Eben Etzebeth, Handre Pollard and Elton Jantjies (all Tuesday), as well as Cobus Reinach and Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg (both Wednesday) – will arrive in Bloemfontein over the next two days.
The other SA-based players will join the group on Sunday following the last two Rainbow Cup SA league games, while the rest of the overseas contingent will return home over the next three weeks, once their club commitments are completed.
Smith will face fierce competition for a spot in the Test match-23, with captain Siya Kolisi entrenched in the No 6 jersey, while Marco van Staden and possibly Marcell Coetzee are also vying for the openside berth.
The former Blitzbok star can also operate at No 8, and could be an attacking weapon off the bench, especially with doubts about the availability of Duane Vermeulen, who sustained an ankle injury while on Bulls duty last week.
“It is great to be back and to see the coaches and players. It is fantastic to have this opportunity to train together after such a long absence from international rugby. We haven’t played in the green and gold since the Rugby World Cup, and I am very excited about what lies ahead,” Smith said on the Bok website on Monday.
“It is a huge honour to be in this squad. There are a lot of players who would have loved to be here, so those of us who are in the group need to make the most of this opportunity.
“It is awesome to get the opportunity to be in line to face the British and Irish Lions. This opportunity comes around once every 12 years, so I won’t have another chance like this. I am certainly going to continue giving my best on the field as we look forward to the series.”