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Blitzboks keen to build on Sevens success

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    28 Nov 2017     Getty Images

Riding high after the South African Blitzboks dominated last year's series, Smith enjoyed an outstanding season, including making a big impact for the Springboks in Test rugby and starring for the Barbarians against the All Blacks.

He told sport24.co.za that he was determined to continue improving.

"It was a great year for me, considering all the teams I played for did well," he said.

"Dubai was fairly significant in that, as it was where it all started for the Blitzboks, getting the win and starting the season on a winning note. After that I also experienced a first win in Wellington, another box ticked off my bucket list with the boys."

Smith played in four tournaments in the series, with South Africa winning three of them. He then joined up with the Lions in Investec Super Rugby and played a key role in their advance to hosting the final, although that game was marred by his being ordered off.

"We had a great season in Super Rugby and although I was sent off in that final, I learned a lot from that experience.

"You find athletes preparing for the 100 metres final of the Olympics only to get false-started, and their race is over before it had begun. We are all human, we all make mistakes. It is how you recover from such misfortunes – that is what people will remember," he said.

The Blitzboks had helped him pick himself up after that setback.

"They held no grudges, instead, they supported me all the way, so it was easy to come back into this group," he said.

Smith said nothing had changed in his approach which was about getting better every day.

"Sevens rugby takes no prisoners. You have to perform at your very best if you want to be successful. It is not easy. In fact, it is pretty tough. I don't see this as a challenge though, rather another opportunity to grow as a player," he said.

Meanwhile, Blitzboks coach Neil Powell is preparing for a big season that also includes the Rugby World Cup Sevens and the Commonwealth Games.

He is looking to develop a more perfect game with the side.

"We have a 78 percent win success on lineouts. There is still 22 percent improvement to be made there. Our scrum win rate is 98 percent as like most teams, but there's still a two percent increase to be made. There is always something to be looked at," he told worldrugby.org.

"We analyse every detail: time spent defending, time with ball in hand, different defensive systems. If you play against an offloading team like Fiji, you have to adapt your systems. All players knowing how to change system for a particular opponent is key for us.

"England, a great team on the series, were a nemesis for us. Six matches against them, one win, one draw, four losses. That's not good enough and we need to work through the detail on what that happened.

"Squad rotation is key for us. It's the mental challenge as well as the physical. We want to be getting to San Francisco next July in good physical shape and be up for winning it mentally. People forget that it's both elements that are essential," he said.