Smith welcomes ‘good nerves’ on big stage

Highlanders halfback Aaron Smith trains at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Thursday. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Highlanders halfback Aaron Smith trains at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Thursday. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Aaron Smith is very familiar with the big stage.

A World Cup final, a Super Rugby final and plenty of semifinals and quarterfinals all feature on an illustrious career CV.

He admits he still gets nervous.

But after all that experience those are "good nerves".

He knows how to play in those big moments now.

That will be crucial for the Highlanders halfback, and indeed the entire team, as he co-captains the side in tonight’s Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final against the Blues at Eden Park.

"I know how to prepare myself to play in a big game," he said.

"In the bigger games it’s just about doing the simple things really well, going back to your core role.

"For me, it’s speed to the ruck, passing and communicating on D [defence].

"That’s how I try to think about it.

"The nerves for me come from the pure want for this club to win.

"To win with Ash [Dixon] as co-captain would be special."

Smith has been influential for the Highlanders all season, as he has for the majority of the past decade.

He was arguably the side’s best player in the 2015 triumph, when it capped a stellar season by beating the Hurricanes in the final.

While the side was thrashed on its last trip to Auckland, Smith said it had learnt from that.

He felt it had improved in both its preparation and on-field performances during the latter of the season.

"We were desperate to be better.

"I think where we’re at defensively as well, I think since the Aotearoa comp our D has really changed.

"Our ability to stay on side, our ability to get up and make our tackles.

"Obviously, with a New Zealand team they pose a lot more threats than the Aussie comp did, so we’ve got to be aware we’re going back to that derby match feeling."

Tonight’s match kicks off at 7.05pm.


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