Kwagga seeks redemption in Christchurch after 2017 final red card

Referee Jaco Peyper shows Lions flank Kwagga Smith a red card during the Super Rugby final against the Crusaders. Christiaan Kotze

After last year's Super Rugby final Kwagga Smith took a different route when he walked out of Ellis Park.

He walked down the ramp where catering equipment were being carried to and from the suites. He walked with his family, and every second person that recognised him gave him a few words of encouragement. He smiled in acknowledgement, but it was clear the pain he was feeling was not going to go away any time soon.

Just over an hour earlier the Lions star was given a straight red card two minutes before halftime in the final against the Crusaders. It was essentially an accident, as Smith, in a moment of madness, took out Crusaders fullback David Havili in the air.

The Lions were trailing 12-3 at the time and, despite a comeback in the second half, eventually went down 25-17 in front of their home crowd.

But 12 months later Smith has a chance to make up for that brain explosion when the Lions take on the defending champions in Christchurch on Saturday.

"The week after the final was difficult. Luckily I could get away to the farm and had some quiet time, getting away from all the rugby. I spent some time with my family," Smith said.

"It wasn't something I did intentionally. I lost focus for one second, and those are the types of moments in a final that make all the difference.

"Last year I had an opportunity and I slipped up, but now there is another opportunity up for grabs and I will definitely use it to the best of my ability."

Up to that point Smith was having a great season for the Lions and was talked up as a potential Springbok. But he finally received his Bok jersey in June against Wales in the United States.

However, he acknowledged that he hasn't been at his best so far this season after ditching the Springbok Sevens team to concentrate on the 15-man game. Smith, though, looks like he is winding up towards the final after a couple of impressive performances in the playoffs.

Smith was especially good in the semi-final against the Waratahs, showing his skill, strength and determination to break tackles and cross the line to score.

Another top performance against an awesome Crusaders side will certainly help his cause to add to his solitary Bok cap. However, winning the title is foremost on his mind.

"It's awesome for me to play in another final and get a chance to play. For me getting my Springbok colours was a dream come true, but winning a Super Rugby title is also one of my dreams. It will be even better if we can do it down there," Smith said.

"You always want to peak at the right moments. I have been struggling a bit this year, but you always want to give your best. It's just awesome to get back to that level and for the team to get back to that level.

"Sometimes you have to do the hard work and people won't always see you. [Lock] Franco Mostert is such a guy. He doesn't score all the tries, but he is definitely the hardest worker on the field."

However, it's going to take a monumental effort for Smith and his Lions teammates to wrestle the title from the Crusaders, who have blown away all comers with their all-encompassing brand of rugby.

The New Zealand team almost doesn't have any weaknesses. They have a tough pack and their set-piece play is exemplary. They have the best defence in the competition, but also boast some of the most exciting backs.

The Lions will need to be more than 100 percent on their game to pull off what has been dubbed 'mission impossible'. Smith, though, believes they can cause one of the great Super Rugby final shocks.

"We have to believe in ourselves and just go down there and do our job. They are a good team, but we are also a good team," Smith said.

"We have to focus on ourselves and not just focus on them. Everybody is making a fuss about them, but we can't do that. We have to do our job. We don't agree that this is mission impossible."