All Black and Highlanders Super Rugby champion Aaron Smith is preparing to play his 100th Super Rugby match this weekend when his team take on the Rebels at his home-ground of Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
The New Zealand Rugby (NZR) and the Highlanders have both congratulated Smith as he will become the 47th player to join the New Zealand Super Rugby centurions club and he will become just the fifth player to play all of their 100 Super Rugby games for the Highlanders. Smith follows in the footsteps of Anton Oliver, Chris King, current teammate Ben Smith, and fellow halfback Jimmy Cowan.
Smith, who debuted for Manawatu in 2008 and the Maori All Blacks in 2010, joined the Highlanders in 2011. After an outstanding Super Rugby season he debuted for the All Blacks in 2012 against Ireland at Eden Park.
New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Steve Tew congratulated Smith on the milestone.
“Aaron’s decision to make the move south to the Highlanders in 2011 kick started an amazing run of success for him, including All Blacks selection and a Super Rugby title.
“Anyone who has watched Aaron play can’t help but be impressed by the speed and accuracy of his passes and his strong defensive tackling. These skills have led to him rightfully being described as one of the best halfbacks in world rugby.
“I know that Aaron’s whanau and friends will be hugely proud of what he has achieved, as will be his many fans in Otago, New Zealand and around the world.
Highlanders’ Head Coach, Tony Brown acknowledged Smith’s massive contribution to the Highlanders.
“Aaron has been the best number nine in the world for some time now and is such an important part of our game. It’s fantastic that he’s clocked up 100 games for the club. He joins a small group of rugby players and he deserves his place in that company. He’s earned his selection in every one of those 100 games through hard work and consistency of performance.”
Highlanders’ Chief Executive Officer Roger Clark added, “From day one Aaron’s commitment to this club has been 100 percent, you only have to watch him play to appreciate how much the Highlanders really mean to him. His total dedication to being the best player he can be has won him a lot of admiration from the fans and his teammates, we all join in congratulating him on his 100 games.”
Smith will be presented with a pounamu mere – the New Zealand Rugby gift for centurions – this Friday 31 March in Dunedin when the Highlanders take on the Rebels in Round Six of the Super Rugby Competition.