'He's got another 10 in him': Savea backs ageless All Black Smith
All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith will join an elite group of All Black centurions when he runs out on Eden Park on Saturday night against the Wallabies, becoming the 10th All Blacks to notch 100 tests.
Smith’s name will sit deservedly along side the likes of Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Ma’a Nonu and Mils Muliana in the 100 club after the opening Bledisloe, becoming the first NZ halfback to reach the milestone.
It may not stop there either, with All Black teammate Ardie Savea saying he’s ‘got another 10 [years] in him’ as the 32-year-old has been a model professional in how he prepares for the game. Savea praised a ‘great man’ that has ‘been through a lot’ to get where he is now.
“I see a man that’s been through a lot, on his journey,” Savea said of Aaron Smith ahead of his acheivement.
“I’ve seen discipline, consistency in preparation, just a great man in terms of what a professional rugby player should be.
“He is the ultimate preparer for a game, Codes [Codie Taylor] can back me up on that. How much passion he has, for the legacy, for the jersey, you can see it in the way he operates.
“For me, I reckon to be great you got to go through some stuff. To see Nug [Aaron Smith] come out of that and play what is he, he’s got another 10 in him.
“That’s what I see in him and he’s a great man.”
Aaron Smith made his All Black debut alongside Ardie’s older brother Julian back in 2012 against Ireland, and has been an integral part of the side ever since with his speed of delivery critical to the All Blacks’ attacking tempo.
Head coach Ian Foster called his halfback ‘iconic’ with ‘total devotion’ to his core skills to become the best in his position. He also highlighted his focus on performing well as a reason he has made it this far, noting the upcoming milestone will be secondary in Smith’s mind to a good performance against the Wallabies.
“I think the word I used in my release was iconic,” Foster said.
“I just think he’s helped shape this team the last 10 years, the way he’s played, the combination he’s got with our other 9s we’ve had in that time period has been strong.
“He’s a guy that’s got total devotion to his core skills, the quality of his pass, his kick, and he’s become a real leader in this group.
“I know how much it means to him, it’s going to be a pretty special occasion for him and his family, and for us.
“But also know the one thing on his mind is playing well and that’s probably why he’s playing 100 tests. He keeps it nice and simple right up to kick-off time.
Smith has arguably produced some of his best rugby of his career in his early thirties, defying odds in some way as the aerobic demands of the position probably suit younger legs.
Contracted to the end of the 2023 World Cup where he will be 34, Foster credits Smith’s ‘internal drive’ over the last couple years for getting this far.
“Internal drive to get better,” Foster said, “It’s a great statement when your leaders are like that.”
“He’s got great drive, and that’s driven him on and off the park, and his position is the one that demands a high aerobic base. He’s delivered.”
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