Before last weekend's Cup final in Dubai, the last time Kwagga Smith had faced New Zealand wasn't in rugby sevens. In fact in wasn't even for South Africa. In November, he turned out for the Barbarians at Twickenham and put in a man-of-the-match performance. Breaks, kicks over the top, almost outpacing Waisake Naholo, Smith was on fire. 

In Dubai, returning to sevens from his stint in 15s with the Lions in Super Rugby, Smith was back to his usual tricks. In the Blitzboks' 24-12 win over New Zealand in the title decider, the 24-year-old was named the HSBC Player of the Final and scored three tries during the tournament. 

"It means a lot to win it," said Smith. "It's always nice to be rewarded for your hard work but it was just great to get back playing with the boys. It was a great opportunity for me to be a part of the system and coach gave me the chance to start in the final. It was a huge honour to play with the guys and to feel the family and the synergy that’s inside that team."


Having only played four tournaments in 2016-17 before heading off to Super Rugby with fellow Blitzboks star Seabelo Senatla, it's been a while since Smith has played the short format of the game. His last tournament was in Sydney in February. Smith has been juggling both forms of the game for the past four years, but has it got any easier to switch between the two?

"Yeah, it’s not easy but luckily, I’ve been doing it for the last four years. The more you do the better you get at it but for me it complements it. When you go to sevens and then play 15s it helps and when you play 15-man and go to the sevens it helps, so it really helps to make you a better rugby player all round.

"In sevens your fitness is definitely something that will help you when you go back to 15s and the vision to see the space on a rugby pitch. Then in the 15-man game you learn the physicality because you’re playing against some big blokes and you can bring that to help you on the sevens."


South Africa head into Cape Town as reigning series and Dubai champions, but it's not been straightforward on home soil. In the first edition of the tournament back in 2015, South Africa beat Argentina 29-14 but last year it was Simon Amor's England who took the spoils, 19-17.  

"I think that win will be in the back of our heads, but the important thing is to not focus on that," he said. "We have to go and do what we can and do our best and stick to our processes and work hard for each other. 

"We have a great team culture. I think each guy has a different role within the team. For me, it’s to make turnovers and to make my tackles but it’s the same for any player. We have a lot of speed and a lot of experience on the outside with the great playmakers we have but there’s always got to be the forwards to do the hard yards and the donkey work and create chances for the other guys to score. That’s what I always try to do, to make the player next to me look better and to make them look good."

The third edition of the HSBC Cape Town Sevens is sold-out after huge demand for tickets, so the home crowd will be firing on all cylinders come Saturday. Is Smith excited to get out there once more?

"It’s awesome! The stadium was sold out in a day. It’s a great experience to play in front of a home crowd and to give back to the fans because they support you and they’re coming to watch so you want to perform and give them what they paid for."