Posted on Friday, 15 May 2020
The COVID-19 lockdown may have taken some getting used to for Rhyno Smith, but the Toyota Cheetahs fullback is making the most of the time to study and train after settling into his new routine.
Smith – the leading Guinness PRO14 try scorer this season, with 10 tries in 13 matches before the competition was postponed indefinitely – admitted that life was a bit of a whirlwind going into the lockdown.
“It was a very strange time for me going into lockdown because we returned from our Guinness PRO14 UK tour and then I went to Durban for a wedding, so I got back to Bloemfontein the day before the lockdown,” said Smith.
“The contrast from being around a whole lot of people in a festive environment to life literally changing for me, my wife and our dog was bizarre.
“It was tough initially, and it took three weeks for me to find a new routine, but once that was in place, I started embracing the change.
“My wife is a graphic designer so she is working from home, and I am in my first year of studying Law through Unisa (the University of South Africa), so we train or go for a walk in the mornings, have breakfast and then we retreat to our work stations until lunch time.
“We also had to navigate our way around who has to cook and clean, so things are going well now.”
The fleet-footed Smith admitted that the timing of the lockdown was particularly good for his mid-year exams.
“I have been able to complete all my assignments and get through a fair bit of studying in the last few weeks, so it worked out well in that regard,” he said.
“My exams were postponed until the end of May to mid-June, so that is coming up in the next few weeks, and fortunately it is online, so I have been hard at work in terms of my studies.”
Smith was equally positive about his home training regime and said: “I enjoy being creative with my training and I can push myself to the limit, so my training has been good. I sometimes see what boxers or sprinters are doing online and try to do that, so I like to mix things up a little.
“I am fortunate to have a little space in the garden which is sufficient for shuttles and my wife has taken over the role as skills coach so she helps with a few aspects of training like throwing tennis balls when I do certain drills, so I have been enjoying my training.
“There is, however, an element of conditioning that only comes with playing rugby, so I am doing what I can at home and within the few hours in the morning when we are allowed to train outdoors.”
The speedster was delighted about being able to participate in the Guinness PRO14 competition and said he had high hopes for his team this season.
“I don’t think people in South Africa realise yet how good the Guinness PRO14 competition is,” said Smith.
“It is a fantastic competition which features top international players and it tests the players thoroughly, so I would like to see it grow in popularity.
“From a personal perspective I really enjoy how it tests me mentally and physically.
“We generally train in warm conditions and at home we get to play our brand of rugby, but on tour we often play in freezing conditions or in soaking rain, all of which is pretty exciting.”
Of the 2019/20 season, Smith said: “It was disappointing for us to finish the 13 rounds just two points short of being in play-off range, and with six home games lined up and seven matches in South Africa in total, I thought we had a good chance to secure a spot in the knock-out rounds.
“That said, I believe we gave our fans a taste of what we are capable of, so hopefully we will able to build on that going forward.”
With Smith falling four tries shy of matching the Guinness PRO14 season try-scoring record of 14 – which his Toyota Cheetahs team-mate Rabz Maxwane (winger) shares with former Edinburg winger Tim Visser – and with eight games remaining before the postponement of the competition, he would have liked to have a shot at possibly breaking the record.
“I would have liked to have a crack at Rabz’ record, especially since I scored six tries in our four games in Bloemfontein and eight tries in the five games in South Africa. Who knows, the record may have been in trouble,” he said with a chuckle.
On the social front, Smith lives next to his team-mate Gerhard Olivier (flanker) and is lucky enough to occasionally enjoy a socially distanced coffee and chat on opposite sides of the garden wall.