Highlanders scrumhalf Aaron Smith made history on Friday night, becoming the most capped player in the clubs history with his 154th appearance.
Smith is now the outright leader for that an honour, after surpassing former Highlander and All Black Ben Smith, who played 153 matches for the Dunedin-based Super Rugby side.
Aaron Smith has had a decorated career while playing rugby in New Zealand, having won both the Super Rugby title and the Rugby World Cup in 2015. He’s also the most-capped All Blacks scrumhalf of all time, having donned the black jersey 97 times in test matches.
Individually, he’s regularly impressed at all levels for his quickness to the breakdown, and the accuracy of his passes. He’d still be considered by many rugby fans to still be one of, if not the best halfback in world rugby at the moment.
While the result didn’t go the Highlanders way at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Friday, it didn’t rain on his parade after the match.
As you can see in the video below, Smith seemed quite emotional as the Highlanders, led by other co-captain in Ash Dixon, performed a Haka for the 32-year-old.
Thank you to my boys for this special moment! I’ll never forget ??? https://t.co/VsHf5LH6VH
— Aaron Smith (@Te_Nug) March 26, 2021
Following the match and the presentation for Smith, both Highlanders coach Tony Brown and co-captain Ash Dixon commented on Smith’s achievement.
Brown said that Smith has “been amazing for the Highlanders and been amazing for the All Blacks”, while also adding that he’s “one of the best players” that New Zealand has had.
Interviewed on the field after the match, Dixon also praised what Smith has managed to achieve while playing for the Super Rugby side.
“That guy is a machine mate, what he does during the week, I can’t even begin to explain to you. He just loves the game, loves the Landers, and his mindset is to be better every day,” said post-match on Sky Sports NZ.
“Full credit to what he’s done for the Landers but there’s plenty more in him, and he’s going to keep going and getting better. Gutted we couldn’t get the win for him but I know he’ll come out swinging next week and it only gets tougher. “
Fans and players alike have also gone to social media to applaud Smith for his achievement. People also seemed particularly taken aback by the Haka as well.
Congrats on the milestone uso
— Jack Lam ?? (@LegOfLam) March 26, 2021
congrats on your long way !! and still going toko ???
— Ueleni FONO (@uelenifono) March 26, 2021
Congratulations @Te_Nug ? ?
— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) March 26, 2021
Sums up all that is good about Rugby in general, NZ Rugby in particular and kudos to a wonderful player.
— Michael Marlowe (@mikemarlowe6) March 26, 2021
Something about a haka that gives me goosebumps. Everytime!
— Kagiso (@kcmoilwa) March 26, 2021
One of the best scrum halves to play the game. He has raised the bar in recent years. Thoroughly deserved.
— Martin ?? (@karmas_burning) March 26, 2021
Smith is in my top five scrum halves of all time. Legendary
— Siya Masuku (@SiyaMasuku) March 26, 2021
One of the best to ever do it ??
— ? (@Sizwelethu10) March 26, 2021
Legend ?? Great servant to the Highlanders
— Simba VC (@DrMswagga) March 26, 2021
— Graham Farmer (@gravyonsports) March 26, 2021
Very, very, very well deserved.
— Marcos Fierro (@fierro_marcos) March 26, 2021
Congratulations on the milestone Nuggy. Best Half-back in World Rugby by far
— Andrew Nesta Lubinda (@akalubinda) March 26, 2021
Congratulations from the ??
You’re a legend.
— TZCollective (@CollectiveTz) March 26, 2021
Earlier this month, Smith re-signed with New Zealand Rugby, keeping him at the Highlanders and at the Manawatu Turbos until 2023 on his current deal.
“I guess I have to adapt and work a little harder than I did back in 2011, but one thing that hasn’t changed is my love for the Highlanders, the All Blacks and Manawatu,” he said.
“The decision to stay is based on a number of things, but I’m very keen to see the Highlanders do well, we have a good environment here and some great, young players, so I think the next few years will be exciting for us and it’ll eb great to be part of it.”
The Highlanders are currently placed last on the Super Rugby Aotearoa ladder, but equal on points difference with the fourth-placed Hurricanes. They’ll face a tough test next week though when they face the undefeated Crusaders in Christchurch.
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