Ex-Chief Toby Smith has waited for this one
Toby Smith has had tonight marked down on his calendar since the 2014 Super Rugby draw was released.
The former Chiefs and Waikato loosehead prop moved to the Melbourne Rebels at the end of last season, his Australian birth certificate also meaning he qualifies for Wallabies selection.
He has been waiting for the chance to play against his old team ever since and tonight he gets it at Waikato Stadium when the two teams meet for just the third time and only the second in New Zealand.
"I remember when I first saw the draw a few months ago and saw when we were going to be playing the Chiefs in Hamilton and knew it was going to be a big game," Smith said yesterday. "Now we're here it's pretty exciting."
Smith expected the Chiefs to have a plan to combat not just him but all players in the Rebels.
"I know they preview the players in the opposition very closely and obviously they know me pretty well from my time there so I know they will be looking at my game pretty hard and trying to attack anywhere they can."
The under-rated Smith was brought in for his 37-cap experience with the Chiefs and to shore up the Rebels' scrum, which he has succeeded in doing to some extent, as well as boost their ball-carrying and tackling power in the tight five.
"We're still trying to improve week to week and are still building. We've definitely improved on our ball but on opposition's ball we've come under a bit of pressure," Smith said of the Rebels' scrummaging fortunes.
"That's led to a few penalties and things like that so it's just week to week trying to improve and it's going to be a big challenge this week as [the Chiefs] have got some reasonably big boys in Tameifuna and Mackintosh."
Smith is enjoying his time in Melbourne and while the Chiefs were a "tight team" so were the Rebels with the added factor that all of the players were from outside Victoria and living away from home, which brought them all closer still.
He believes the Rebels are not that far away from cracking an overseas win and getting consistent winning performances.
Rebels head coach Tony McGahan praised what Smith had brought to the Rebels' rugby programme.
"He's brought in a lot of experience, is a really quiet, understated player who just gets on and does his job each week," McGahan said.
"He is really appreciated by the group and certainly the coaching staff and we're really looking forward to him playing well this weekend as he's a really consistent performer at the set-piece and certainly around the ground."