RWC Daily host is roaming with a licence to thrill

The video magazine is wooing a whole new audience with its fresh take on all matters rugby, thanks in large part to livewire presenter Elma Smit.

TOKYO, 17 Oct - Sightseeing with Wales great Shane Williams, playing Jonah Lomu Rugby with All Blacks World Cup winner John Kirwan, and being kissed by fans.

All in an episode's work for the Rugby World Cup Daily, the rugby video magazine that is airing every day of the tournament. 

"I haven't had a day off since 8 September," said Elma Smit, the face of the show. "But I wouldn't have it any other way."

A law graduate whose broadcasting career began in community radio in high school, Smit, 33, first grabbed the spotlight in 2011 as the winner of Lady Rugga, a talent show aimed at finding TV network SuperSport's first female presenter in rugby-mad South Africa.

"It was a huge honour to win but also a sad indictment of women's representation in rugby, particularly the media, in 2011.

"I actively positioned myself as someone who tried to create more platforms for viewer engagement, more social media integration and the promotion of the sport to a wider, younger and more racially diverse audience."

Fast-forward eight years and, after working in a similar role for the ICC during the 50-over men's Cricket World Cup earlier this year, Smit and the RWC Daily team have been "given a licence to really push the boundaries of who rugby fans are". 

Fanzones, stadiums, tourist attractions, team hotels: have story, will travel. It is a formula that seems to works, with views totalling almost four million to date.

"It was a conscious decision to create an honest representation of what things looks like digitally speaking," said Smit of the show's progressive production values. "We want to show a younger audience that we're really letting you in."

So, alongside a healthy dose of rugby action and reaction, you have (in no particularly order): Georgia players trying to pick up electronic cockroaches using chopsticks, NBA stars being tested on their RWC knowledge and gameshow-style challenges, such as 'Is it vegan, George Gregan?' in which the Wallabies legend… well, you should probably just watch the clip. 

"We try not to tell the participants too far in advance what we want them to do, because half the fun is seeing the apprehension on their faces when we start rolling," Smit said. "And now we've delivered 20-odd episodes, they know to expect the unexpected."

And what of the fans?

"The reaction of the Japanese fans in particular has been absolutely amazing. At one point I was on a six-day run where I went home every night with a gift. In Kumagaya, these guys interrupted their rugby game to present me with the ball they were playing with.

"One fan did run up and kiss me, but that was week three. It happens much earlier at most tournaments but they're so respectful here.

"Normally, you have to be wary of French and Argentinian fans as they tend to pick you up and carry you away, but in Japan it's mainly just been a lot of singing."

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