Olympic sevens option open to Ben Smith

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 14:11 04/07/2013
Ben Smith
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CHANGING PLACES: With Rene Ranger gone, Ben Smith will provide centre cover for Conrad Smith should it be needed.

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Ben Smith fronted the media today for the first time since re-signing with the NZRU, but was reluctant to go into too many details on his four-year deal.

The All Blacks utility, described by coach Steve Hansen as the team's best back during the recent series win over the French, wouldn't say whether his contract included a sabbatical.

''At this stage I don't want to comment on that. A four year contract, there's a bit of flexibility, but at the moment I don't want to comment on that,'' he said.

Smith was also coy on whether he was initially interested in such a long-term deal.

''I don't really want to go into it, but four years was offered and it gives me a chance over the next couple of years to push for different teams. It's a place that I'm really passionate about, to play for the Highlanders and Otago, it's a great opportunity really,'' he said.

''Obviously everyone likes the security of having a job and it's good to know that for the next four years it will give me the chance to play professional rugby.''

A Commonwealth Games gold medallist in 2010 with the New Zealand sevens team, Smith said his contract should allow him the flexibility to try and make Sir Gordon Tietjens' team for the Rio Olympics in 2016, although it was not something he had given a lot of thought too.

''You sort of just take rugby year by year and that seems a long way away. I'll look to play as well as I can for the remainder of the Highlanders season and move forward to wherever it is from there, whether it's the All Blacks or Otago,'' he said.

''We are going to have to cross that bridge when we come to it, but I think there would be that option there to have a go at it.''

The Highlanders take on the Hurricanes in the capital on Saturday night in their final New Zealand derby game of the season, before finishing a disappointing campaign against the Rebels in Melbourne.

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- The Southland Times

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