In the wake of the Highlanders 30-27 victory over the Blues tonight, Sharksworld caught up with Highlanders rising star scrum half Aaron Smith
With the Highlanders South Africa bound next week to play the Cheetahs first up in Bloemfontein before a visit to Kings Park. Sharksworld took the opportunity to talk to one of the Highlanders key players in 2012 before his first visit to Durban.
Sharksworld: Congratulations tonight Aaron on what was I imagine a vital win.
Aaron Smith: Yes, it was really a vital win especially coming off the bye. The Blues really gave us a hurry–up and bought a lot of physicality which messed up our ball but we are definitely very happy to get the win and secure the Gordon Hunter Memorial Trophy which was a big goal for us tonight.
SW: With Mike Delaney slotting in outside you tonight and with you working your way through your first-fives this year how was your first week with him in the fold?
AS: Haha ….. Well training is always a dream (after a serious injury in the squad) there is never someone always flying at you. Yeah, it has been a bit different this week, lets just hope he hangs around a little bit longer than the other ones did.
SW: So it hasn’t been personally disruptive to you having different combinations during the course of the season?
AS: Well I suppose it has just been a matter of having those little mini meetings with them to get an understanding of what they like. Most fly halves are the same but it is just little things like where they prefer the ball when they are kicking. Mike Delaney is a pretty aggressive 10, so for me it’s really just a case of putting it out in front and chasing him.
SW: Obviously you have had a stellar year to date and have been touted in many media outlets as a real rising star of the New Zealand scene, what have you put that down to?
AS: Well, I definitely put a lot of hard work in during the pre-season and with the World Cup we were able to get in an extended 14 week block which was planned out for us – that was good and I enjoyed the World Cup but not too much so I wasn’t carrying too much condition which aided a successful pre-season. Additionally my forward pack has been going really well and the ball provided has been really good, although tonight it was a bit rough in areas – now I’m really looking forward to getting over to Africa and seeing a dry ball.
SW: Tonight you were able to play against the incumbent All Black half back for a while as well as working week in week out with Jimmy Cowan – so how are you gauging your form at the moment?
AS: Well tonight I was pretty disappointed with how I went. I was a bit inaccurate with parts of my kicking game and I missed a couple of tackles but that’s rugby mate. It was special for me tonight to get a chance to play against a boyhood hero of mine Piri Weepu he was a Hurricane and I’m from the Hurricanes region which really was a buzz for me. Hopefully I will get the chance to have a chat to him afterwards and see what he thought of things tonight. However having Jimmy Cowan around on my shoulder during the week is always good and I really respect him as a player and I put a lot of my good form this year down to him –he’s an awesome guy and hopefully he can keep helping me.
SW: You now are off to South Africa this week, last year you made your debut against the Bulls, first up on tour is the Cheetahs then it is the Sharks. With the Sharks likely to play a similar game to the Stormers which was so successful against you do you think we can expect to see anything slightly different from the Highlanders in a fortnight’s time?
AS: Well obviously the Stormers have the best defence in the competition and that proved a really stern challenge for us on the night. We got a few technical areas wrong that night – being a bit high in contact and hopefully we have learnt our lesson and when we get over to Africa we can implement our plans that we have for the South African teams. We are all well aware it is not going to be an easy trip with the Cheetahs playing a similar brand of footy to New Zealand sides coupled with a pretty good power game. Then we have the Sharks that have some big ball running forwards and a tough scrum which is currently a work-on area for us, so hopefully we can get over to Africa get a bit of team bonding going and enjoy it but we really realise it is going to be a bloody hard couple of weeks – there is no easy game in this competition!
SW: Do you find playing the South African sides from a New Zealand perspective different to play against?
AS: I sometimes find their skill level a little more predictable than New Zealand sides. For example in New Zealand a prop could skin you on the outside but you tend to find with the more physical South African sides you can anticipate a lot more direct running. However they beat you in different ways those guys with a more power and territory based game.
SW: So Aaron, Sharks fans that turn up at Kings Park in a fortnights time what do you think they can expect from the Highlanders?
AS: Well hopefully after a win against the Cheetahs we will be able to muscle up at the breakdown produce a really good defensive line and throw in a little bit of Kiwi flair mixed in there somewhere and hopefully the fans will enjoy it. Personally I’m really looking forward to playing at Kings Park, I haven’t been to either part of South Africa that we are visiting so I am really looking forward to it.
SW: One thing the Sharks fans will get a chance to see is your extremely flat pass, is that something that you consciously work on?
AS: We always have our work-on’s each week but also we work on the things that we are good at and my flat pass is one of those, I always know that if I get a couple of good flat passes in early I will feel confident. If I have done the work I know I can technically back my pass during the game.
SW: Well Sharks fans and South Africans are looking forward to seeing you after you have made a few waves this year putting yourself on the playing map. So good luck on your trip away and we will look on from this part of the world and hope for a stellar performance out of you at Kings Park in two weekend’s time.
AS: Hahaha …. Lets hope so.
SW: Thanks for talking with Sharksworld.
AS: No problem mate.Tweet