TJ Perenara talks about the rugby debt he owes to Wayne Smith

Wayne Smith, centre, provides TJ Perenara, right, with a few pointers.

Wayne Smith, centre, provides TJ Perenara, right, with a few pointers.

Tackling is not the same as defending. Wayne Smith taught TJ Perenara that.

The Hurricanes play the Cheetahs at Westpac Stadium on Saturday. It's not a match many people are interested in.

If the Hurricanes win, they'll get no credit for it. If they lose, it'll be open season.

Hurricanes halfback TJ Perenara, right, credits Wayne Smith with making him a smarter defender.

Hurricanes halfback TJ Perenara, right, credits Wayne Smith with making him a smarter defender.

So when captain Perenara was up for media duties on Friday, it wasn't the Cheetahs people rushed to ask about. It was Smith, the longtime All Blacks' assistant coach who announced earlier in the day that he was stepping down in a few months' time.

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"He helped me understand defensive organisation a lot better and reading offensive cues. He was a smart man and painting pictures is something he does very well defensively and trying to make the offence do things you want them to do," Perenara said.

An ability to genuinely debate things and accept others' views were among Smith's other strengths, said Perenara.

Leading the defence has become one of the halfback's core jobs at the Hurricanes and some of that expertise comes straight from Smith.

"I like contact and I like making tackles and I still like that part of the game," Perenara said.

"But I probably looked for it a little bit more than I should and I probably got out of the role of a 9 more often than not. So understanding my actual role as a 9 and being a better defender - not just a better tackler - but a better defensive player for the team was something he helped me with."

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Work ethic and competitiveness are other traits the pair shared.

"He has very high expectations of each and every individual in the environment and so he should."

Perenara went on to say that he liked that Smith "was hard on players."

"He wasn't too hard, he wasn't negative or anything like that, but he expected you to be good, he expected you to improve each week, he expected you to be better than you were the last time you were in camp and so she should."

It's all in how you handle or project that stuff, though. In Perenara's case, he's famous for not wanting to come second at anything. But now he's in a leadership role at the Hurricanes, defeats such as last Saturday's 20-12 one to the Crusaders have to be dealt with in an appropriate fashion.

"Initially I get sour [after a loss]. Being a little bit older in the team, a little bit more of an experienced player, for the benefit of the team I think I need to take my personal emotions away from it and probably react more how it's going to best-suit the team.

"But, yeah, I do get sour and it does annoy me each time we lose and it drives me to be better each time we get out there."

An 80-minute performance is what he wants against the Cheetahs, after a Crusaders game in which there were too many passive or inaccurate periods.

There's been one change to the Hurricanes' 23 named on Thursday, with Hugh Renton replacing fellow loose forward Callum Gibbins on the bench. Gibbins is still troubled by a shoulder injury, leaving Renton in line for his Hurricanes debut.

Hurricanes: Beauden Barrett, Wes Goosen, Vince Aso, Ngani Laumape, Julian Savea, Otere Black, TJ Perenara (c), Brad Shields, Ardie Savea, Reed Prinsep, Vaea Fifita, Sam Lousi, Jeff To'omaga-Allen, Ricky Riccitelli, Ben May. Reserves: Leni Apisai, Mike Kainga, Loni Uhila, Mark Abbott, Hugh Renton, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Jordie Barrett, Ben Lam.

Cheetahs: Clayton Blommetjies, Sergeal Petersen, Francois Venter (c), Clinton Swart, Raymond Rhule, Fred Zeilinga, Shaun Venter, Henco Venter, Oupa Mohoje, Uzair Cassiem, Carl Wegner, Armandt Koster, Johan Coetzee, Elandre Huggett, Ox Nche. Reserves: Torsten van Jaarsveld, Charles Marais, Tom Botha, Francois Uys, Niell Jordaan, Tian Meyer, Niel Marais, Ruan van Rensburg.


 - Stuff


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