Springboks ‘battle stats’ explained as Kwagga Smith believes size ‘doesn’t matter’

Jared Wright
South Africa's Kwagga Smith is tackled by France’s Uini Atonio and Reda Wardi during the Rugby World Cup 2023 quarter final match at the Stade de France, Saint-Denis.

South Africa's Kwagga Smith during the 2023 Rugby World Cup quarter-final against France.

The Springboks have provided further insight into their “battle stats”, with flanker Kwagga Smith stating that size doesn’t matter.

Smith is renowned for his immense work-rate around the pitch and particularly his breakdown prowess.

In fact, no player made more turnovers than the livewire Springbok in 2023, who also topped the statistics at the World Cup despite featuring predominantly off the bench.

The Springboks’ battle stats

At 180cm and weighing around 90kgs, Smith is not in the traditional mould of a Springboks forward but became a key cog in the Boks ‘Bomb Squad’ in the build-up to and during the World Cup due to his versatility across the back-row and even in the backs.

Much of Smith’s value comes in his ability to win small battles throughout matches, something the Springbok coaches dubbed “battle stats”, a metric used to measure a player’s ability to repeatedly make positive contributions in matches.

“Rassie and the coaches brought in a thing to measure your battle rate [stats]. It is every involvement that you have in the game; it gets calculated and added up together with the time that you played to get your battle stats,” Smith explained in a Betway exclusive snippet from the Chasing the Sun 2 documentary series.

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Former Springbok coach Nick Mallett revealed last year that Erasmus and his staff briefed the Supersport pundit and commentary team on the metric and revealed that Smith was consistently the best performer in the statistic even when adding players from other nations.

In the clip, Erasmus adds: “It’s a guy’s effectiveness in his position and how long it takes him to be effective again; it is how many seconds it takes for you [the player] to do something positive or successful and what your job is. The longer it takes for you to do it again, obviously the worse it is [the battle stat].”

The metric is obviously tailored to the Springboks to assist the coaches with their selection and to justify selection calls to their players.

While ex-England hooker Brian Moore has recently raised concerns about the size of forwards packs around the world, singling out the Springboks and Bordeaux as examples, Smith believes that every player has their strengths.

“I think that the attitude in which you tackle your battles is very important as well,” he added in the snippet.

“It doesn’t matter whether you weigh 70kg or 140kg; every player knows their strengths, but the attitude of how you do things is the most important and the effort that you put into forcing your strengths onto the opposition.”

“If you lose some battles, it’s fine”

The battle stats was also cited when the Bok coaches opted not to call up another specialist hooker during the World Cup pool stages following Malcolm Marx’s injury. Instead they opted to fill the void with Deon Fourie, another player who would rank highly in the battle stats.

“For me, it’s just to get in as many of those battles as I can,” Fourie explained.

“I know that’s how Rassie and Jacques view players at the end of every game in how you throw yourself into the game and put a positive into the side.”

Veteran Springbok back Willie le Roux added: “If you don’t do that, then why are you there? If you lose some battles, it’s fine. At least you tried. That’s a big thing with us at the Springboks.”

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