Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber has explained the thinking behind the eye-catching selection of Kwagga Smith at blindside flank in the team to face the All Blacks on Saturday.
Nienaber has made five changes to the match-day squad for the Test against New Zealand, with Trevor Nyakane named at loosehead prop for his 50th Test cap. Two of the changes are in the starting lineup, and more three on the bench, which features a five-three split this week.
One of the changes in the starting lineup is at blindside flank where Smith is promoted from the bench in a direct switch with Franco Mostert, who will serve as impact player this week.
Given Smith’s size – the former sevens player is 1.80m and 95kg – eyebrows have been raised over his suitability for the role, which traditionally has required a hefty ball-carrier.
“Kwagga has brought nice energy every time he’s come on in our recent outings,” the Nienaber said on Tuesday after announcing the team for the weekend’s 100th Test against the All Blacks.
“He’s a versatile guy and we trust him. He’s been part of us for a while and is very familiar with our system and what’s expected of him.
“When you consider the makeup of our team, we have Bongi [Mbonambi], Malcolm [Marx], Steven [Kitshoff], Trevor [Nyakane], Lood [de Jager], Eben [Etzebeth], Siya [Kolisi] and Duane [Vermeulen] who can fulfil the roles of ball-carriers for us.
“In a different way, Kwagga can also be considered a ball-carrier with his evasion and timing on his carries. He’s a previous sevens player, so he has a varied skill set.
“You don’t want too much of the one [ball carrying] and too little [playing towards the ball and poaching] in the other department.”
Regarding Mostert, Nienaber explained that the decision to name him on the bench was made purely from a player-management point of view.
“Franco’s been a stalwart for us, he initially played lock for us and then deputised for Pieter-Steph [du Toit] after he was injured. He’s produced 80 minutes after 80 minutes and 80 minutes and still even moved back to the second row during matches,” he said.
“It’s purely to give him a bit of a breather.”
Photo: Mark Tantrum/Getty Images
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