Fullback Rhyno Smith is hoping to produce another good performance when Pukke take on Maties in Stellenbosch on Monday.
Last year's Varsity Cup finalists kicked off their 2015 campaign with a 36-26 win against the Madibaz in Potchefstroom last week.
Smith was one of his team's best players, scoring an electric try in the 13th minute when he threw a dummy pass to the winger on his outside before handing off the defender. He also had a hand in two of his side's other tries and kicked two conversions.
It wasn't the first time Smith had got the better of the Madibaz. In last year’s semi-final he came on as a late replacement to kick a penalty and secure a one-point win for Pukke.
Smith was born and raised in Paarl, and played for the Paarl Boys' High 1st XV in his final year when they were ranked third in the country. He also represented Western Province at Craven Week, who beat the Golden Lions in the unofficial final.
Following a move to Potchefstroom, Smith earned selection for the Leopards U21 and senior side, as well as Pukke's Varsity Cup team.
‘Being a part of the Varsity Cup squad last year was so special to me,' the 22-year-old tells SARugbymag.co.za. 'There was great camaraderie and we shared a special bond.
'The coaches [former Springboks Rob du Preez and James Small] played such an important part in our success. The professionalism of their approach to everything is incredible.’
Smith says Small, Pukke fullback Sylvian Mahuza (who was named the 2014 Varsity Cup back of the tournament) and his father have all played important roles in his development.
‘My father introduced me to the game and taught me all he knew. He started coaching me under the high ball from the age of six, now I’m the one kicking up and unders to him.’
Smith may not be the biggest fullback in the Varsity Cup, but his agility and discipline compensate for that.
‘I pride myself on being one of the smaller guys playing big rugby’, says Smith, who regards former Wales wing Shane Williams and Springbok utility back Gio Aplon as role models.
Smith is looking forward to Pukke's match against Maties, who drew 32-32 at UCT having led comfortably at one stage.
'We are expecting a physical contest and Maties to play with width,' he says.
Photo: Catherine Kotze/SASPA