LA Gilgiltinis signed JP (Juan-Pierre) Smith for the 2021 Major League Rugby season. The 30-year-old loosehead prop (31 in January) is 6’3″ and 255 lbs.
JP was signed by the Giltinis along with his twin brother Ruan. They were born in Vryburg, South Africa, and immigrated to Toowoomba, Australia in 2006 with their family as teenagers. They spent a year at Toowoomba Grammar School before returning to South Africa to complete their education at Paarl Gimnasium.
Toowoomba provided a quality beginning for Darlington Downs rugby. JP played rugby with Western Province from 2009-2011 and competed in the Vodacom Cup in 2010.
JP returned to Australia and played for GPS in Brisbane and his performance led to his going with the Brumbies to the Super Rugby Semi-Final and Finals in 2013, but did not earn a cap. This changed in 2014 and 2015, as he made 24 appearances for the Brumbies. He also played with the Canberra Vikings in the National Rugby Championship, making 8 appearances.
In 2015-2016 he played with Western Force and then returned to South Africa to play with the Stormers. From 2018-2020 he played with the Queensland Reds and for McInnes Wolson Lawyers Brisbane City in the NRC.
In 2015 he left for Japan to play with the Toyota Verblitz in Japan’s Top League through the 2018 season. He signed a contract to play with the Super Rugby Sunwolves, however, was released due to compassionate reasons with his mother’s illness.
Instead, he signed with the Queensland Reds for the 2018-2019 season, along with Brisbane City in the National Rugby Championship.
LA Giltinis Comments
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.
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 specialize 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 percent 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.”