Aaron Smith: star halfback ‘passes’ 150 Super Rugby caps

Aaron Smith: star halfback 'passes' 150 Super Rugby caps

‘Passing’ 150 Super Rugby caps will see Aaron Smith join an exclusive club. He has been a one franchise man, who is maturing into one of the best halves in the modern game.

At age 31, entering his premier stage of a Domestic and International career that has been crowned by a Super Rugby title and the Rugby World Cup crown.

If those two criteria are yardsticks for success, then Aaron Smith has done extremely well. Yet add to that his formative stages with the Manawatu Turbos and Junior World Championship sides, and he should be seen as a standout halfback and All Blacks talisman.

As he ‘passes’ the 150 mark, Smith honestly speaks about the highlights and lowlights from his playing days. Of a 2015 Super Rugby championship, and an RWC title. And his love for Dunedin, and the Highlanders franchise.

Aaron Smith: star halfback ‘passes’ 150 Super caps

Born in Palmerston North, the Manawatu representative was out of the Fielding High School rugby factory. One that also produced Sam and Luke Whitelock, as well as 2020 Crusaders captain, Codie Taylor.

A common thread has seen many players from the regions emigrate their talents elsewhere. This is where in 2010, the Blues included Smith in a wider training squad yet it appears that his talents were not fully recognized.

Selected for the New Zealand Maori side, he was involved in the 2010 Centenary Series which included wins over Ireland, and England.

After several impressive provincial seasons with Manawatu, he was shoulder tapped by Jamie Joseph. That relationship would blossom, with Aaron Smith backing up All Black Jimmy Cowan – three starts in 2011, before a breakout year in 2012.

Ever since he has been the first-pick halfback for the Southern side, and a driver for the sides magnificent 2015 campaign to upset the Hurricanes at Westpac Stadium on July 4.

‘Bullet pass’ is Smith’s greatest asset

In comparison to players such as Piri Weepu and Andy Ellis, it is the ‘bullet pass’ of Aaron Smith that is his weapon of choice. Skip passes, outstanding long passing in combination with a box kick that is still improving, are assets that Smith incorporates.

As an All Black, this range of skills defined the speed of play that Steve Hansen endorsed. Leading up to the 2015 Rugby World Cup, the side developed amazing potential to attack and counter-attack, on the back of quick ruck-pass game. Hitting his target, it was supported by the attitude and volume of the little halfback.

if you don’t hear him, then he is probably on the bench. So loudly does he encourage and coral his teammates, the verbal work he does is mostly in the affirmative – although referees may argue that point.

Only five foot seven (171 cm) that does not define the player. Stature aside, his physical strength is what makes him a valuable defender. Yet the speed generated by Smith in both quick-ball play around the ruck, as much in him supporting breaks through the center of the field means he has scored 26 tries over the course of 150 Super appearances, and 16 tries for the All Blacks.

Aaron Smith of the All Blacks makes a break during the Rugby Championship match between the New Zealand All Blacks and the South Africa Springboks at AMI Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Yes, there have been controversies too. Over time, as a young man and during his development years, certain incidents occurred that will [and should] be recorded. Like any sportsmen, his road is scattered with some missteps.

Overlooking those would not be entirely complimentary. Social media has seen a questionable nude photo, his biggest misdemeanor was a tryst at the Christchurch Airport, on the day the All Blacks departed for an overseas tour. Humiliated, Smith was promptly sent home, lucky to save his professional reputation and his personal, and family life.

Learned lessons are something that has proved invaluable to many sportsmen and women. With maturity, fatherhood, and adoration of fans and his peers, that now sees Smith rated as one of the very best in the game.

Ending 2020 with a win will prove a valuable bookend to an interrupted season. His work on the ball, leadership, and inspiration is growing to the highest levels. That could be an asset for the All Blacks – if they ever get to host International matches.

Expect A Smith to be one of the first dozen names called out for that, selected for the North Island in the North v South trial match too.

His contributions recognized by both hemispheres, even if the humble player might not outwardly rate himself. Ranked alongside some of the best to have ever worn the number 9 jersey.

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Super Rugby Aotearoa: Round 10 – Highlanders 38 Hurricanes 21

 

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