JC Pretorius Lions URC Man of the Match South Africa

JC Pretorius is one of the best players in the URC at the moment. Image: Supplied.

Has South Africa found its next Kwagga Smith?

Sevens convert JC Pretorius is making a splash for the Lions in fifteens rugby. But could the Springboks also benefit from his smooth transition.

JC Pretorius Lions URC Man of the Match South Africa

JC Pretorius is one of the best players in the URC at the moment. Image: Supplied.

The Lions may just have unearthed South Africa’s new Kwagga Smith in the form of JC Pretorius and the Springboks could be the biggest beneficiaries.

The blonde bombshell picked up his second successive Player of the Match award as he took a key role in the Lions’ eye-catching 44-21 victory over recent URC league leaders Glasgow in Johannesburg.

With fellow flanker Ruan Venter being red-carded just before the break, swiftly followed by the sin-binning of No 8 Francke Horn, Pretorius was a one-man back row for a spell, but nothing seems to be beyond this tireless breakaway.

The 26-year-old from the Mpumalanga Province was into everything and had not one, not two, but three involvements in the try of the match on 57 minutes.

He produced a pair of exquisite one-handed passes out of the side door in the build-up, and then, there he was, providing textbook openside support to take the inside scoring pass from centre Erich Cronje.

The highly skilled Pretorius was part of the South Africa team that won the gold medal at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and he is now really making his mark in the 15-a-side version of the sport.

CAN HE BE THE NEXT KWAGGA SMITH FOR SOUTH AFRICA

Following his transition from sevens to fifteens rugby, Smith forced his way into the Springbok set-up and now he is a two-time World Cup winner.

That is no small feat, and yet Smith remains the unsung hero of South Africa’s recent successes and one of the most underrated players in all of Test rugby.

A breakdown king second to none, the ex-sevens star is renowned for his work on the ground in terms of turnovers and complete jackals; according to statistics he tops across all major club and international competitions.

He also boasts the best average per 80 minutes in both categories, averaging 2.8 turnovers won and 1.9 jackals.

Pretorius boasts a similar skillset, and should he continue his current run of form for the Lions, his career path could follow the same trajectory as Smith’s: from Blitzboks ace to Springbok superstar.

At 30 years of age, Smith is unlikely to feature for the Springboks at another World Cup, meaning South Africa is in the market for a versatile loose forward with the ability to jump in and play in the backline if the need arises without derailing the team’s highly controversial but effective 7-1 bench split selection.

Pretorius has all the makings to be the player that can fulfil that role.

Springboks South Africa
South Africa’s Kwagga Smith (L) and RG Snyman (R) celebrate after the Rugby World Cup 2023 semi-final match. Image: EPA/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON.