Ben Smith keen to get on with job at hand

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 05/07/2013
Ben Smith
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WORTH THE COST: Ben Smith was about the only thing that made going to a Highlanders game worthwhile this season.

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For Ben Smith, committing to New Zealand rugby for the next four years was easy compared with being thrust into the media spotlight and having to explain it all yesterday.

"I'd rather just get on and play rugby, but this is all part of it. I'd rather just get on with it, but this is part of the job," the unassuming Smith said.

"It's good to get it all sealed off. I can look forward to the next couple of years of playing rugby."

Smith wasn't keen to go into the details of his new contract, which has seen him commit to Otago, the Highlanders and New Zealand rugby through until 2017.

He didn't want to talk about whose idea it had been for a four year extention, or whether the deal 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.

"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."

Smith confirmed there may be some flexibility in his contract to allow him to push for a place in the New Zealand sevens team for the Rio Olympics in 2016.

He was part of Sir Gordon Tietjens' squad which won Commonwealth Games gold in 2010.

There would have been sighs of relief all over Logan Park and Forsyth Barr Stadium when the Smith deal was completed because without him it's hard to imagine a competitive Highlanders franchise. He is that important to Jamie Joseph's team.

Smith said he's enjoyed the transition to the All Blacks during the June test window, and back again, and was looking forward to another derby game, this time against the Hurricanes in the capital tomorrow night.

"We were excited to come back into the Highlanders environment after the All Blacks environment and the boys had been training really hard," he said.

"The Hurricanes are a really dangerous team and we have to be on our game this weekend. We're looking forward to getting up there and really giving it a good crack."

Meanwhile, Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett has made two changes to his starting side with Faifili Levave replacing Brad Shields at blindside and Alapati Leiua returning on the right wing for Matt Proctor.

"Faifili the last three or four games he's played his carry and his defence has been outstanding and I think he just deserves a crack at starting," Hammett told the Dominion Post.

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"We want to play high tempo across the game and we see that bench as being pretty important and potentially being used quite early."

The Highlanders will name their team today.

- The Southland Times

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