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Smith embraces playing on another big stage

He has had his share of drama, excitement and disappointment in his rugby career, but when Rhyno Smith makes his debut for the Springbok Sevens team on Friday against South Korea at the Cathay Pacific/HSBC World Rugby Sevens tournament, it will be the highlight of his career.

The 25-year old BA Human Resources graduate was born in February, but April seems to hold the special moments in his career.

In 2016, he was a member of the FNB NWU Pukke side that dramatically won the FNB Varsity Cup final in an 89-minute thriller against FNB Maties in Stellenbosch.

Last year this time, he was playing fullback for the Cell C Sharks in the Vodacom Super Rugby competition against the Jaquares in Buenos Aires. And this year Smith is in Hong Kong representing South Africa in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.

“I always wanted to play for the Blitzboks,” Smith said on Tuesday. “They have always been my favourite national team, and it is so exciting to know that I will actually do just that.”

The fullback/flyhalf got a taste of international Sevens rugby in January when he represented the SA Rugby Sevens Academy in Uruguay and Chile in the Sudamerica7s tournaments, where they claimed gold, but this will be a different challenge.

“If my Sevens career had ended there, I would have been happy having represented my country in Sevens at that level,” Smith said. “Luckily it did not and here I am, so excited.

“It is a dream come true playing for the Blitzboks and, on top of that, to make my debut in Hong Kong, one of the iconic tournaments on the world stage, is extra special.”

Smith has learned not to allow the location to get to him and said: “I have tasted success away from home, but also played in losing away games. The venue is not the reason for one’s results, it is rather your application on the day, and if we apply ourselves here in Hong Kong, things will go well,” he believes.

Despite having already played in a Currie Cup Final, Smith halted his 15-a-side career to have a shot at making it into the Blitzboks squad, and although he lacks experience in the code, his teammates will be relying on his verbal communication.

“Speaking up will not be because of any of my Fifteens experiences, it will simply be because of my role in the team,” he said. “I play at sweeper and that means that I need to give direction from the back. I can see from the back where the holes are opening up and which side to attack, and as such, I need to communicate with the guys in front of me.”

Numerous text messages of support and knowing that his family in Paarl, and many other South Africans, will wake up early to see the team in action has given Smith a massive confidence boost.

“It is clear that this team enjoys huge support and we cannot thank our fans enough, especially those back home who will have to get up early this weekend,” said Smith. “And we would like to make it worthwhile for them by playing to the best of our ability.”

•South Africa will take on South Korea on Friday at 13h10 (SA time), and Scotland and England on Saturday at 06h22 and 10h24 respectively in Pool C.

The rest of the Cathay Pacific/HSBC World Rugby Sevens pools are:

A: New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa, Russia

B: Kenya, Australia, Spain, Canada

D: Argentina, USA, Wales, France

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