Conrad Smith eyes return for Super playoffs

OH, YES: Conrad Smith goes over to score for the All Blacks against England.
OH, YES: Conrad Smith goes over to score for the All Blacks against England.

Conrad Smith is targeting the Super Rugby playoffs for a comeback from his broken thumb and says he will do all he can in an off-field role to make sure that happens.

A cast on his broken right thumb has relegated the All Blacks and Hurricanes centre to an off-field role for at least the next three weeks.

But the 32-year-old is not the type to mope and will clearly be as competitive with a clipboard in his one good hand as he is with the ball.

"A lot of work goes in off the field and for myself I do as much work off the field with that team [the Hurricanes] and I'll do even more so now that I don't get the chance to play," Smith said when asked about when he expects to play again.

"A lot goes in off the field that people often don't see or don't appreciate. I'll be keen to go back and do that and do what I can to get us into the playoffs."

Smith has clearly not given up on the Hurricanes winning their remaining two matches of the regular season against the Crusaders and Chiefs.

"By the final I'd definitely be right, but it'd be an interesting decision to make at the start of the playoffs. I'll worry about helping us get there first."

Smith said he didn't realise the severity of his injury until he went to shake hands with the English players at fulltime after the All Blacks' 28-27 win in Dunedin.

"I have no idea [when it happened]. I felt it in the second half and went and got it strapped up. By the end of the game I knew it was pretty bad and shaking hands with the English was the first time I thought I might have broken it.

"Obviously I got a knock sometime around halftime and with the adrenaline didn't feel the true extent of it. Even after the game there was a hope on Sunday it wasn't a break, but that wasn't to be.

"It's not a bad break, they don't need to operate. I just have to stay in a splint for three or four weeks and then I'll be able to have a run around and see how it goes after that."

Smith said he was generally accepting of injuries related to the contact element of rugby, but particularly disappointed at the timing of his latest setback.

"Obviously to miss a test match and two pretty important games for the Hurricanes it hurt me a lot, but it's one of those things . . . Rugby players roll the dice every time they play . . . this sort of thing can happen every game and you can't stop it. You just have to be realistic and deal with it."

Smith said his immediate focus was on helping his All Blacks replacement Malakai Fekitoa prepare for his first test start against England in Hamilton tonight.

"He deserves his chance. I hope he plays really well and I'm sure he will. He's excited by the opportunity and he'll have a lot of support around him.

"He's pretty good at asking questions. We've talked as most midfielders do. That's what's expected at this level through training. He's good at asking me about things and I'm the same.

"I ask him about the game and between Ma'a [Nonu] and Ryan [Crotty] and him [Fekitoa] I think we've got a pretty good fist of things."

The Dominion Post