Springbok Sevens forward Kwagga Smith is not only determined to add another successful stint with the Blitzboks to his already impressive rugby CV, he also wants to improve his skill set as a player, something he is almost guaranteed to do in the next couple of months on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
The 2017/18 series starts on Friday, when the Emirates Airlines Dubai Sevens opens the ten tournament showpiece and for Smith, who experienced the ups and downs of rugby in 2016, it is another opportunity to grow and to improve as a player.
“It was a great year for me, considering all the teams I played for did well,” Smith said shortly after the team arrived in Dubai.
“Dubai was fairly significant in that, as it was where it all started for the Blitzboks, getting the win and starting the season on a winning note. After that I also experienced a first win in Wellington, another box ticked off my bucket list with the boys.”
Smith tasted tournament victories in three of the four tournaments he played for South Africa in the series and continued to impress in the fifteens code, playing for the Emirates Lions.
Smith was unfortunately red-carded in the final of Vodacom Super Rugby, but he took solace in the fact that his rugby friends supported him in that tough time.
“We had a great season in Vodacom Super Rugby and although I was sent off in that final, I learned a lot from that experience,” said Smith.
“You find athletes preparing for the 100 meters final of the Olympics only to get false-started, and their race is over before it had begun. We are all human, we all make mistakes. It is how you recover from such misfortunes – that is what people will remember.
“The Blitzboks form part of my close circle of friends and they were some of the first ones to pick me up again after that incident. They held no grudges, instead, they supported me all the way, so it was easy to come back into this group.”
Smith tasted the sweet in playing fifteens a couple of months later, when he was named Man of the Match for the Barbarians in a highly entertaining match against the All Blacks earlier this month.
He is not dwelling on that performance anymore, as satisfying as it was on many levels, and is rather keen to push the boundaries with the Blitzboks again.
“My mind-set or goals did not change, despite success and misfortune,” said Smith.
“I still strive to become a better player and person every day. Nothing has changed and it is great to be in an environment where everyone else feel the same.
“Sevens rugby takes no prisoners. You have to perform at your very best if you want to be successful. It is not easy, in fact, it is pretty tough. I don’t see this as a challenge though, rather another opportunity to grow as a player.”
The Springbok Sevens will face Uganda, Kenya and Canada on Day One of the Emirates Airlines Dubai Sevens on Friday.