Smith happy with another two years in south

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Lynn McConnell     02 Apr 2019     Getty Images

Smith said on Monday he was pleased to have made the decision, and while it took some time to confirm it, he could now concentrate on the remainder of what was a big season. He said he didn't really want to leave New Zealand and was happy to be able to play for the next two years.

He had a lot of things lining up off the field with the gym he owns while his partner was pregnant and they weren't ready to leave Dunedin.

Smith said when he started out at the Highlanders it was because the Hurricanes had been looking at him but didn't think he was up for the challenge. Smith said he wished he could go back and change the lifestyle he had been living then and he had to take a good look in the mirror.

It was while on a six-month replacement contract with the Blues that he realised where he needed to be if he was to make a go of professional rugby, fitness and conditioning wise.

"I had a good ITM Cup and then got the call from Jamie Jo [Jamie Joseph] about week two into the 2011 ITM Cup," he said.

He had two days to make up his mind. The Hurricanes had said they would wait until the end of the season to see how he went, but with Joseph's call, Smith said it had been an easy decision to make.

His parents had advised him he probably needed to get out of the bubble he was living in in Manawatu and to get out of his comfort zone and the move to Dunedin had been the best thing for him.

It had worked out well as he played behind Jimmy Cowan for a year, had the benefit of Joseph's coaching and then the stadium was opened and that had been a succession of luck in his choice.

The dry conditions of the stadium suited his game while Joseph encouraged him to express himself and to play his own game.

In spite of establishing himself as the best in the world and with a World Cup winner's medal, and a Super Rugby champions' medal, to show for himself he said he was still learning and looking to improve his game.

Highlanders assistant coach Glenn Delaney said it was huge to have Smith re-signing for the Highlanders. He was a 'massively influential' player.

"When you've got the best player in the world, in his position, committing to your club I think it speaks volumes of what we're trying to do and what we're trying to build here. He's at the heart of that and he's at the centre of all the good things we do on the field in terms of how we play," he said.

Smith had an infectious personality and had a big role to play on and off the field.

While he was out of action with a high ankle sprain his contribution would not be stopping and he would play a part in preparation each week.

His game had evolved to utilise his particular skill set and because of that the teams he played in had profited.

"I think he's been at the forefront of change in the game and maturity brings perhaps better decision-making and more experience but what it hasn't done is taken away any of his core fundamentals. His pass is still as quick as it has always been. The reason for that is he works on it and works on it so hard," Delaney said.

The Highlanders have called in Jack Stratton as an injury replacement for Smith.