For many fans of rugby union, few players gain respect from the majority. more than All Blacks and Highlanders player, Ben Smith. He is one of those few men who are recognized and praised by so many for his skill and his manner on-and-off the park.
Playing in the last game of his career with the Highlanders, the co-captain was unable to secure a place for his beloved team in the Super Rugby playoffs. That was not through the player’s lack of effort – returning from a hamstring injury – Smith was again a commanding figure in the quarterfinal match.
A player every opponent concentrates on. a nod of respect to the fullbacks role, as well as his enterprise on and off the ball.
If not leaping for a high ball, or making outstanding defensive tackles to bring down a flying winger, the highlight reel of Ben Smith’s Super Rugby career will only just touch on his courage and expertise as an outside back, and in recent years, as a real leader.
#CRUvHIG result went the way of form. Well done
It was a shame because now we will not be able 2 enjoy watching #BenSmith (photo courtesy of @GettySport )
This image is pure Bender; Otago, Swandri. Played with spirit, always a threat & a leader who will be missed by @Highlanders pic.twitter.com/2jYV1wxLbI
— scott hornell (@scotthornell73) June 21, 2019
Ben Smith considered the consummate rugby player
Winning the 2015 Super Rugby title against the Hurricanes, it will be the highpoint of his 153-cap career in Otago and Highlanders teams. In his final Super Rugby playoffs game, Smith leaves for French rugby team Pau, after the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
He was given a guard of honour when exiting the field in Christchurch. A real mark of respect for the player who personifies the Highlander spirit. His coach remarked that he was “a real champion,
No backward step, even when he appeared to take a head knock; as the players of old did, he shook it off, quelling thoughts of another HIA concussion check. A regular occurrence in his recent seasons and a norm in modern rugby – which is both a preventative measure and a safeguard. So when Smith walked back to his position, Highlanders fans still believed they had a chance to upset the Crusaders.
While not on this evening, this is how every New Zealand fan will feel when he plays at the Rugby World Cup. That an All Blacks team with Ben Smith in it, whether wearing number 15 or on the wing, has every chance of breaking the line.
Ben Smith, along with Luke Whitelock and All Blacks winger Waisake Naholo each now end their time in the Highlanders colours. Smith, as much as any player in the franchises 25-year history, will be remembered as the consummate rugby player.
Good on ya mate!
Ben Smith biography – Super Rugby, Provincial and Rugby Sevens
His long service with the Highlanders is well regarded. The fullback is a one-franchise man, and 153 games for his beloved team is a more than credible history.
As well as Super Rugby, the fullback played 43 games for the Otago provincial team. He debuted in 2007, and immediately showed a heart and enthusiasm that has never diminished. It boosted his rise to the All Blacks. A player who will play in his 10th International season; with a highlight being 2017, when he was rewarded with the captaincy against Manu Samoa.
He was a part of the triumphant 2015 World Cup winning side. That period capped a brilliant 12 months of form, after earning a Super Rugby winners medal in the same year.
This success came after Smith played rugby sevens for his country. A member of the Commonwealth Games gold-winning team of 2010. This came after he had already been a part of the New Zealand Under 21 side, in 2007.
A multi-talented back, whose gift for seeing space for himself, as well as in setting up others. Solid, dependable and ready to stand in positions from center to the right wing, putting the team above himself in all forms of the game.
Departing for French rugby, his place will be difficult to fill. That is with the Highlanders, as well as the All Blacks. A senior player whose mana will always provide others inspiration, and a standard to meet.
Ben Smith is the epitome of a Highlander man; resilient, unassuming and hard-working.
“Main photo credit”
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