Aaron Smith not happy with form slip
All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith is the first to acknowledge he's not having the sort of season which saw him go from Highlanders understudy to first choice test halfback in 2012.
Critics have been quick to ask why Smith's game has gone quiet - particularly the run-and-gun passing and the accuracy of his kicking which saw him become established in the black jersey in the immediate post-World Cup era.
"I'm not really to fussed on what people are saying, to be honest," Smith said.
"I keep my standards of how I play pretty high and I'm not very happy with how I'm playing either. [I'm] just trying to improve. I'm trying my hardest to go out there week to week and do the best I can. A lot of what I do comes down to the sort of ball I'm getting but I'm still disappointed in my error rate at the moment."
Playing for a team which has started with five straight losses doesn't help, nor does playing behind a forward pack which has not always dominated.
"Obviously, if the forwards go well, and I can be accurate in my role and do my jobs right, then hopefully that goes a long way towards our team going well. Being a key cog in our team, I'd definitely like to be playing better."
But the message coming out of the Highlanders is reminiscent of a British propaganda poster from the World War II - Keep Calm and Carry On Rucking - perhaps.
"We are just trying to put it all together. We've done a lot of good things in past games and just getting a couple of key errors wrong," Smith said.
"I don't think there's a whole lot to change, we've just been on the wrong end of some results that we obviously aren't happy with. We are sick of being on the end of close results that we don't win.
"We don't have to freak out or anything. We know if we can sort some little key mistakes and not let in some soft tries with defensive lapses. I think our attack has proved it can put teams under pressure."
The Highlanders have spent a good part of this week flagellating themselves. It's something Smith believes was the right move, a bit of attitude readjustment as they look ahead to the Blues at Eden Park tomorrow night.
"We did a lot of hard work, grinding. We did a few old-fashioned down-ups and a bit of fitness, just trying to get some fight back into the boys . . . smashing each other, trying to get the attitude and the little things back in our game," Smith said.
"The key thing this week has been getting the little things right."
The Highlanders team to play the Blues will be named today.
The Southland Times