LA Giltinis adds a double dose of skill and power to the front-row with the signing of Super Rugby twins JP and Ruan Smith.
The South African-born brothers bring a wealth of playing experience to the Giltinis and further beef up the high-quality pack being assembled for the club’s inaugural Major League Rugby season.
The 30-year-old duo played together for the Queensland Reds in this year’s Super Rugby Australia competition as the most recent collaboration on their lengthy resumes.
The pair grew up in South Africa before finishing school together at Toowoomba Grammar in their now-homeland Australia.
Ruan has played with the Western Force, Brumbies, Reds and Melbourne Rebels in Super Rugby since 2012 while JP has played for the Brumbies, South Africa’s Stormers and the Reds since 2014.
“For me, going to the USA has always been a bucket list thing so to get in on the ground floor with a new club in LA makes it very appealing,” Ruan said of his two-season deal.
“JP and I always play our best rugby together. It’s that little boost you get on the field with your brother and it’s a real thing.
“I’m at a stage of my career where I want to experience something different and spend more time with my family so to be able to play hard and compete for six months a year in MLR is ideal.”
The brothers specialise on different sides of the scrum-JP at loosehead prop and Ruan at tighthead-so they aren’t competing for the same spot.
New Giltinis teammates will be doing plenty of double-takes because the twins are near identical even down to their cauliflower ears.
“A few boys couldn’t work out how they were greeting me on one side of the gym and saying hello to me on the other side as well,” JP said with a laugh of confusing early days with Ruan at the Reds.
“Playing with a new club in one of the sporting capitals of the world has massive appeal for me.
“Away from playing, I’m really interested in player development and coaching and I’d like to take any opportunity in that area in LA to help rugby keep growing in the local community.
“One hundred per cent I believe the Giltinis can make an impact immediately because I can’t believe how professional the operation is already with everyone filling in training data from around the world and connecting on Zoom.”
JP is looking to trim about 15lb (7kg) to reach a playing weight of 247lb (112lb) to be in his best shape for the fast, fan-friendly style the Giltinis will play.
The brothers run a South African Boerewors and Biltong business, called Bro’s Braai in Australia, and will be searching out the best American barbecues in LA.
“JP and Ruan are both very good, experienced rugby players and popular off the field in their past teams,” Giltinis assistant coach Stephen Hoiles said.
“It’s a significant part of the way we’ve structured our squad that they will really help guys like Blake Rogers and Mafi Seanoa, two of our talented American props.”
The Giltinis will kick off their MLR campaign on the weekend of March 20, 2021, with tickets being available by the end of this year.