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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

Kwagga Smith aims to conquer both formats after inspiring South Africa to Dubai Rugby Sevens title

Blitzboks send out an ominous warning to their World Sevens Series rivals after successfully defending their Dubai title.

South Africa celebrate on the podium after winning the 2017 Dubai Rugby Sevens on Saturday. Francois Nel / Getty Images
South Africa celebrate on the podium after winning the 2017 Dubai Rugby Sevens on Saturday. Francois Nel / Getty Images

Kwagga Smith has set the target of playing at both the 2019 World Cup in XVs and the Olympic Games a year later in sevens, after capping a remarkable month with another winner's medal in Dubai.

The 24-year-old forward was the man of the match in the final as the World Series champions South Africa defended their Emirates International Trophy at The Sevens by beating New Zealand 24-12.

His latest award arrived a month after he earned similar recognition for an inexhaustible display for Barbarians against the All Blacks in a XVs match at Twickenham.

The advance of sevens since admission to the Olympic movement last year in Rio has generally meant such feats of transition are rare.

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Smith, who also played the Super Rugby final for Golden Lions earlier this year, has ambitions to become a regular in the full Springbok side.

However, he also hopes to be part of the Commonwealth Games campaign in 2018, as well as the Olympics two years later, with his “family” in the abridged format.

“It is difficult, and I think you must set your goals and go according to that,” Smith said. “For me, my next goal is the Commonwealth Games [in Australia in April] and the Sevens World Cup, and after that I will do my best to get in the Springbok team for the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

“Then, after that we can look at the Olympics, if I am blessed to play so long.”

Smith has been with the Springbok sevens programme since he left school, which is part of the reason he is so keen to return to them, despite his obvious progress in the more celebrated 15-a-side game.

“Both give you satisfaction,” Smith said. “For me it is just an honour to play and to earn that respect from other players.

“It was awesome to meet new people with the Barbarians. It was awesome to meet new guys from Australia, New Zealand and England – but it also awesome to be back with my family and to play with them again.

“I want to contribute what I can contribute while I can.”

Kwagga Smith, centre, produced a man of the match performance in the Dubai Rugby Sevens final. Satish Kumar / Reuters
Kwagga Smith, centre, produced a man of the match performance in the Dubai Rugby Sevens final. Satish Kumar / Reuters

Smith was characteristically tireless in the final match of the 2017 Dubai Rugby Sevens, and scored a charged-down try that put the Blitzboks into a 19-0 first-half lead.

The new-look New Zealanders, who have not won Dubai for eight years now, fought back to get within a score, only for the Boks to extinguish their challenge with a last-play try.

The manner of South Africa’s victory sets a daunting precedent for their World Series defence. They won the title by a massive 28-point margin last season.

Neil Powell, their coach, played down talk that they could monopolise the series in the same way New Zealand did by winning the series 12 times in 15 years after its inception.

“I don’t think you will get a team that dominates the circuit in the way New Zealand did in the past," Powell said. "You might get a team who are successful for a year or two, then there is a changing of the guard.

“It is something we would like to do, but the competition is so strong now that it is going to be tough to be as dominant for as long as New Zealand were.”

The All Blacks Sevens are themselves in a rebuilding phase, having not won the series since 2013-14, and they were delighted to have made the final in Dubai.

“It is exciting looking forward,” Scott Curry, the New Zealand co-captain, said. “For us to go and push the best team in the world last year, we are pleased with that.

“We still have a lot to work on, so for us to make a final, we are proud of that. We have only been together a couple of months, and other teams have been centralised for years.”

England finished took the bronze medal after beating Fiji in the third-place match.

World Sevens Series standing after Dubai

1. South Africa
2. New Zealand
3. England
4. Fiji
5. Australia
6. Samoa
7. Kenya
8. Scotland
9. France
10. Spain
11. Argentina
12. Canada
13. Wales
14. Uganda
15. United States
16. Russia

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