Cheers Steve Hansen. NZ Rugby Must Acknowledge Wayne Smith

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AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - JUNE 13: Assistant coach Wayne Smith during a New Zealand All Blacks training session at Trusts Stadium on June 13, 2017 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

“Okay Steve, we got it” was the reaction by many who heard the New Zealand rugby head coach comment on his mate, Wayne Smith last night. Smith, who had just ended his term as assistant coach for the All Blacks after last nights emphatic 57-0 win over South Africa, rightly deserves accolades.

“You guys should write some great stories about him. He is a Great man.”

Hansen was speaking during the post-match press conference, but he was speaking for many rugby fans and admirers of Smith’s. Known in rugby circles as ‘the Professor’ for his imaginative and researched defensive and offensive patterns, he is unique.

His is an influence that has occurred as player, head coach and assistant.

Cheers Steve Hansen. NZ Rugby Must Acknowledge Wayne Smith

You must listen to people like Steve Hansen. Two Rugby World Cups is proof that he ‘is doing something right’. But the subject matter is also an agreed topic. Wayne Smith is the goods!

Last Word on Rugby have previously respected the input of Wayne Smith. Mike Pulman wrote that Smith was ‘One of the Great Minds of Rugby’. Personally, this reporter has gladly shaken his hand, listened to him speak and gained a signature; such is his mana.

MARSEILLE, FRANCE – SEPTEMBER 03: Wayne Smith (2-R), backline coach of the New Zealand All Blacks takes the team through a video analysis during training at Stade Jean Bouin on September 03, 2007 in Marseille, France. (Photo by Ross Land/Getty Images)

And few would argue with that compliment, especially after ends such a long and distinguished career with New Zealand Rugby. Pulman wrote ‘With a career in rugby spanning 36-years, Wayne Smith has cemented his legacy as one of the most ‘intelligent minds’ behind the game.

‘As a new era of All Black rugby begins in 2016, Smith is still one of the voices behind the scenes.’

Written on June 10, 2016, Mike would not have known then of the difficult decision that Wayne Smith made the following May. Smith called time on his All Blacks career then, after a stellar recent term as the defensive specialist.

Wayne Smith Completes Term With a 57-0 Win

Not every team or coach can go out with a win. True tonight for Wayne Smith and the 2017 All Blacks, they have. A big win, a record win in fact, so the celebrations would in deed reflect that.

The man himself would describe the victory as ‘brutal’.

The look on the face of Smith was a mix of elation and gratification. The plans, systems and processes that he has been a huge part of, came off ‘near perfectly’. He admitted that they had not been happy with performances over the last few weeks, but he praised the sides diligence, and how they did their homework – epitomized by the 1B4 workbook that every player was handed personally by Wayne Smith. That was their ‘homework’.

“It’s sort of a dream performance to finish on, all round – that’s the best forward display I’ve seen in ages, it was incredible,” Smith told reporters.

“We’ve got a good guy coming in,” is how Smith remarked on Scott McLeod. The incoming assistant coach will have huge shoes to fill, but with the guidance given–and the example set–McLeod will surely be well prepared by October 21.

Team Effort That Underlines Planning and Preparation

“He’s sitting in there happy as a sand boy, smile on his face is as wide as the Grand Canyon.”

Hansen; sitting in between his captain Kieran Smith and fellow assistant Ian Foster, was pleased for his friend and management team member. They have been in the same team since 2004, with the last 13 years developing into the most successful period in All Blacks history.

The below highlights may show a dominance on the night, but this All Blacks team and Wayne Smith in particular, have planned and contested that South Africa will always be a handful. But fortuitously for them, everything went to plan in Albany on Saturday.

New Zealand 57 – Tries: R. Ioane, N. Milner-Skudder (2), S. Barrett, B. Retallick, O. Tu’ungafasi, L. Sopoaga, C. Taylor; Conversions: B. Barrett (7); Penalty: Barrett

South Africa 0

That victory takes a minute to appreciate. A scoreline that Hansen remarked how “they got us on a night that clicked,” and he was respectful that there are still two games in The Rugby Championship to play.

Even while the media cannot assume too much, as Hansen is likely to emphasise across the next few weeks that the job is not yet complete–not discounting this record defeat to South Africa.

All Blacks Management Pleased for Wayne Smith

“His story is much bigger than just tonight. He’s been a wonderful servant to NZ Rugby, and for him to go out tonight is only fitting. Because I think he has been a great coach – he’s still got a few games to go before he finishes fully, but this is his last one at home.”

With that, Hansen gave the media a nudge to ‘write good things about Smithy’. And Last Word on Rugby agrees. The evolution of the team, alongside the good person that Smith is, is why rugby is a great sport.

It proves not only can players develop, but coaches like Wayne Smith can grow too. Evolve from a head coaching record ‘in question’ to become a formidable part of a winning team. A team that Smith has added to as a player, an head coach, but more notably as grand strategist. His reputation has grown incredibly more since 2004, to a degree outshining his head coaching role.

The All Blacks management are pleased for their team member. Many in World Rugby respect Wayne Smith more now, and after the 57-0 win, are in awe of the World Champions capabilities to evolve.

For Smith, on home soil he can be fully satisfied. One man who added a flourish and a distinct dimension to the All Blacks environment. One that will be difficult to replace.

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Wayne Smith will officially end his term with the All Blacks, on October 21st. After the third Bledisloe Cup game in Brisbane, Smith’s place in the coaching group will be taken by Scott McLeod.

 

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