Aaron Smith proud to join All Blacks’ centurion club

David Skippers

Achieving 100 Test caps is usually an incentive for team-mates to perform well to honour the recipient, but, on Saturday at Eden Park, the All Blacks’ newest centurion, scrum-half Aaron Smith, was the one providing the inspiration.

Smith’s two passes, the first to second inside centre David Havili and the second to full-back Damian McKenzie provided perfect ball on the blindside to create game-breaking tries.

All Blacks’ 10th Test centurion

He became only the 10th man to play in 100 Tests for New Zealand, joining Richie McCaw, Kieran Read, Keven Mealamu, Sam Whitelock, Tony Woodcock, Dan Carter, Owen Franks, Ma’a Nonu and Mils Muliaina in the All Blacks’ centurion club.

And the man who elevated him onto the first-class stage with Manawatu, Australia coach Dave Rennie, was on the receiving end as his side went down 33-25 in the first Bledisloe Cup game of the season.

Rennie told the All Blacks’ official website: “The quality of his pass really changed the game the All Blacks could play.

“He was a great little player for Manawatu, and credit to Nugget [Smith’s nickname], he had opportunities to go to big unions and him and Aaron Cruden decided to stay in Manawatu. To go on from there and play Super Rugby, and as many Tests as he has, is fantastic.”

Smith, who made his Test debut at Eden Park in 2012, admitted after the Test that he was pleased to put all the hoopla behind him. He could now get into his usual preparation mode for the Rugby Championship that kicks off with Saturday’s second Bledisloe Test, also in Auckland.

“I take a lot of pride in preparing for a Test, and I was a bit shaky in that first 15, probably 30 [minutes]. I was very tight, and was glad I was able to build into the game and my passing came back to me finally,” he said.

“It will be nice to prepare for another Test here just knowing I ticked off a little goal I had set a while ago.”

Smith’s avoidance of the spotlight meant he didn’t go with the tradition of running onto the ground first in honour of his achievement.

That was because, he said, the team meant more to him than doing that, and he told captain and Feilding schoolmate Sam Whitelock that he didn’t want to run out first. That was Whitelock’s job.

“I wanted it to be as normal as possible. I had the huge honour of leading the haka and took that with a lot of pride,” Smith explained.

“For me, the celebration only comes after that. Once the whistle had gone, and the ball was kicked off, you’d played 100 games.”

However, for all his efforts to avoid the spotlight, there was no escaping the warmth of the standing ovation from the 47,000-strong Eden Park crowd he was accorded when subbed in the last quarter of the game.

“I’m just happy we won, that was an awesome Test to be part of,” he said.

 

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