Aaron Smith: 'I'd love nothing more than to have a go against Dupont'
Aaron Smith’s continued absence from the remainder of the Rugby Championship will rob the world of a great battle between two of the best scrumhalves in the game when the All Blacks square off with the Springboks – and no one is more disappointed than the man himself.
New Zealand and South Africa will do battle in their 100th test match next Saturday, with the game originally set to be played in Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium – Smith’s home ground for Super Rugby.
Because of the re-emergence of Covid in NZ, however, the game has been shifted to Townsville in Australia and will be played as a double-header alongside the clash between the Wallabies and Pumas.
All going to plan, Smith would be facing off with South Africa’s Faf de Klerk – a key component of the Springboks’ win at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, and one of the best halfbacks in world rugby.
Instead, Smith will be potentially lining up to play for Manawatu against Northland.
With Aaron Smith unavailable for the remainder of the Rugby Championship – and perhaps beyond – the coming months present a huge opportunity for TJ Perenara and Brad Weber. #AllBlacks
— The XV Rugby (@TheXV) September 14, 2021
It’s a loss for fans around the globe, but Smith is equally disappointed that the showdown with the Boks hasn’t transpired in the way he’d hoped.
“Obviously at the start of the year, we were hoping to play the Rugby Championship in New Zealand and see out my year that way,” Smith told media on Wednesday.
With a child on the way, however, the situation became infinitely more complicated when the tournament was shifted to Australia, and there were no guarantees that anyone would be able to return to New Zealand on short notice.
“Obviously, with Covid hitting and the boys going to Australia and the unknown about being able to come back in time for the birth, I had to make a decision – and it was a pretty simple decision, to be honest.”
The opportunity to play against the world champions following their successful series victory over the touring Lions loomed as a fantastic opportunity for Smith to test his abilities – but that now won’t be the case, with Smith remaining in New Zealand.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 15, 2021
“Playing against South Africa itself – not saying it’s just Faf – but playing South Africa, world champs, beat the British and Irish Lions, 100th test… All those things add up to a point of just amazingness,” he said.
“That’s been taken away from me and that’s ok … It keeps me hungry to make sure I get to face these guys again. That’s how I see it. It’s given me a bit of energy, thinking about it.”
There’s also a chance that Smith could miss the entirety of the All Blacks’ tour to America and Europe, with his newborn not due until mid-November, and the tour set to begin in late October.
Should that be the case, Smith would also miss out on facing off with France’s Antoine Dupont, the man that some say has taken his mantle as best in the world. The 32-year-old isn’t ruling out a return to the fold in time for the All Blacks’ 20 November kick-off with Les Bleus.
“Who knows? If things go well, I could hopefully get over to the end of year tour and I’d love nothing more than to have a go against Dupont,” Smith said. “He’s probably the best halfback in the world at the moment. He’s outstanding.
“And hey, playing in Paris against the French, that’s a pretty awesome script. And also, that’s where the next World Cup is so those kinds of things, and building to things like that [are exciting].”
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There are a few bridges that need to be crossed before a surprise return to the All Blacks can take place, however – and it’s entirely dependant on the arrival of Smith’s new baby.
“The baby will come when baby comes,” he said. “There’s a hope there [that joining the tour is possible], I’m going to hang onto it.
“But I think I need to play some footy. If I can play decent minutes, play well enough and if Fozzy feels like it looks good enough to come over, I’d be happy to join. My wife’s already said that’s an option if baby comes early, that she’d be happy for me to go. So if that happens, I’ll jump at [the opportunity].”
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