Conrad Smith admits his partnership with Ma'a Nonu came about more by accident than design as they prepare for their 53rd start.
Conrad Smith admits his partnership with Ma'a Nonu came about more by accident than design as they prepare for a 53rd start together.
Only Gordon D'Arcy and Brian O'Driscoll have played together more, and barring an accident, they will have been surpassed by the end of the Rugby Championship.
Saturday's Test with Argentina in Napier should see Smith and Nonu reunited for the first time since June with the former's thumb injury and the latter's shoulder problem causing them both to miss games.
But while Malakai Fekitoa and Ryan Crotty have both filled in seamlessly, nothing beats the experience that Nonu and Smith have forged together.
However, Smith admits that when they first linked up for the All Blacks, it was just an experiment with two talented individuals chucked in alongside each other.
''Obviously we are pretty tight friends now, but at the start we both admit we started off just fending for ourselves,” Smith told Stuff.co.nz.
“We were thrown together as a combination, but we were just doing our own thing really.
''Over the years we've been encouraged to learn from each other and develop [the relationship] a bit more and I think we've done that, probably in the last four or five years since the last World Cup and really benefited from it.
''That experience is the biggest thing. We've played a long time together at all different levels, but particularly at test level.
“A midfield is a combination rather than an individual thing and we just know each other's play really well. Having done it for a while you know what you are looking for and are able to play off each other.''