Kwagga Smith emerges as rugby's breakdown master in 2023

Kwagga Smith emerges as rugby's breakdown master in 2023

Springbok flanker Kwagga Smith has officially emerged as the Breakdown King of 2023, according to the statistics.

The 30-year-old impact player enjoyed immense success in 2023, playing a pivotal role for the Springboks off the bench as they secured back-to-back Rugby World Cup titles.

The ex-sevens star is renowned for his work at the breakdown, and stats provider Opta have revealed just how effective he was in that area of the game in 2023.

According to Opta, no player won more breakdown or jackal turnovers than the Springbok star in 2023 when tallying up the players™ totals for both their club and country.

Smith won 27 jackals in total for the Springboks and Japan Rugby League One side, Shizuoka Blue Revs, and claimed an impressive 40 turnovers.

For clarity, a turnover could be a rip from a ball carrier or dislodging a ball from a player™s hands in a tackle while a jackal is at the breakdown.

Smith tops both the turnovers won and most jackals statistics across all major club & international competitions.

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

What makes Smith™s achievements even more impressive is the fact that he started just two Test matches for the Springboks this year, coming off the bench on seven occasions.

The livewire back-rower was crucial to the Springboks' bench strategy in 2023 and produced some of his best performances off the year during the Rugby World Cup knockout stages.

During the quarter-final against France, he won two turnovers during his 30-minute cameo as he won a vital penalty that put South Africa into a lead that would win them the match.

He would win another turnover off the bench in the 15-16 victory over England in the semi-finals a week later and produced arguably his best performance in the final against New Zealand.

Smith managed to claim three turnovers against the All Blacks in the final, including a magnificent rip on Will Jordan as the Springboks claimed their fourth Rugby World Cup title.

According to Opta, Smith was also the most effective defensive ruck operator at the tournament. Of the 31 defensive rucks he hit, he managed to disrupt the opposition or win a turnover on 13 occasions for a defensive ruck efficiency percentage of 41.

He won a total of 10 turnovers, three more than any other player was capable of.

All in all, it was another memorable year for Smith, who added the tag of Breakdown King after claiming rugby™s biggest prize in France.

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