Aaron Smith

Image courtesy of Getty Images

New Zealand Rugby, the Highlanders and Manawatu Rugby are delighted to announce that halfback Aaron Smith has recommitted to New Zealand Rugby through until the end of the 2019 season.

26-year-old Smith, who has played 41 Tests for the All Blacks, 78 games (including an amazing 60 consecutive matches) for the Highlanders and more than 40 matches for the Manawatu Turbos, has become an integral part of the All Blacks and Highlanders success over the last few years.  He was a standout player for the Highlanders this season helping the team to their inaugural Super Rugby title and carried his outstanding form into the All Blacks season.

Smith said: “I’m really excited and thankful for the commitment shown from New Zealand Rugby, including the Highlanders and Manawatu Turbos.  Knowing I’m contracted for the next four years allows me to focus on my rugby and there are some exciting challenges ahead for the All Blacks which I hope to be part of.  Dunedin is my home and I wouldn’t want to play my Super Rugby anywhere else; the Highlanders brotherhood is something pretty special and I can’t wait for next season.”

Smith joins All Blacks teammates Julian Savea, Brodie Retallick and Dane Coles who announced four-year deals earlier this year, while Jerome Kaino and Wyatt Crockett are contracted through until 2018. Players locked in to 2017 include Kieran Read, Sam Whitelock, Owen Franks, Cory Jane, Israel Dagg, Aaron Cruden, Ben Smith, Charlie Faumuina, Sam Cane, Steven Luatua, Malakai Fekitoa, Hikawera Elliot, Nepo Laulala, Codie Taylor, James Broadhurst, Tawera Kerr Barlow, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Waisake Naholo, Brad Weber, Charlie Ngatai and Ryan Crotty; with Sonny Bill Williams, Augustine Pulu, Beauden Barrett, Joe Moody, Lima Sopoaga, Luke Romano, Matt Todd, Victor Vito, George Moala, TJ Perenara, Dominic Bird, Patrick Tuipulotu and Andy Ellis contracted through to the end of next year.

New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Steve Tew said: “I want to congratulate Aaron on his recommitment to New Zealand Rugby.  In the last few seasons he has developed into a key player for both the Highlanders and the All Blacks and is a world-class player on top of his game.  With the signing of Aaron, together with Brodie, Julian and Dane, we now have a core group of key players committed long-term to the All Blacks and their Super teams, which is fantastic.”

All Blacks Coach Steve Hansen added: “It’s outstanding news for Aaron and for the All Blacks.  With a number of senior players leaving at the end of this year, Aaron and other players will play a key role in the team as we face the exciting challenges coming up over that period, including the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand in 2017.  We look forward to working with him.”

Highlanders Head Coach Jamie Joseph commented:  “Since I have known Aaron, he has blossomed into one of the best halfbacks I have seen. In a sense he is redefining the halfback role by the way he plays, and you know players like that don’t come along that often.”

Highlanders’ General Manager Roger Clark added; “Aaron’s commitment to the Highlanders until 2019 is fantastic news.  He is such an important member of the team and leadership group, and it’s great to have that commitment from him to the team and the organisation.”

Manawatu Rugby CEO John Knowles said:  “Aaron remains a very important part of our community and we are delighted that he has recommitted to Manawatu.  Every time he comes home he is out and about visiting schools and rugby clubs and inspiring the next generation of rugby players and we certainly appreciate his support.”

Aaron Smith – mini biography

Aaron Smith, or “Nugget” as he is affectionately known by his team mates, started his professional career in 2008 at the age 19 for the Manawatu Turbos. In 2011 after consistently strong performances in the ITM Cup Smith earned a position in the highly successful Maori All Blacks, coached by Jamie Joseph.  Subsequently offered a Super Rugby contract with the Highlanders, Smith made his debut in 2011.  Smith has been the Highlanders first-choice halfback for the last four seasons. In 2012, after an outstanding Super Rugby season, Smith was selected for the All Blacks and made his first appearance in the iconic black jersey against Ireland on 9 June 2012. Smith’s trademark bullet pass and fast-paced style suited the All Blacks’ expansive game and he cemented himself in the starting team in 2013. He was awarded the Tom French Memorial Trophy for the Maori Rugby Player of the Year in 2014 - and with 41 All Blacks Tests to date - Smith is generally regarded as one of the best halfbacks in the world.

AARON SMITH - ANNOUNCEMENT VIDEO

Media note:  Smith will be available for comment together with Roger Clark at a media stand up at Highlanders HQ in Dunedin at 1.00PM today.  For further information please contact Amanda Gould on 021 223 8840.

Highlanders v Toulon

 

The Highlanders have confirmed that they have been working with SL Events and Toulon post winning the 2015 Investec Super Rugby title around staging a game in Hong Kong. The game would be an integral part of their preseason campaign for 2016 and would take place on February 6th.

Highlanders General Manager, Roger Clark, said “obviously it’s a significant opportunity and it would be the first time the Highlanders have matched up against a European side. It’s fair to say the coaching group are excited by the prospect. While there are still a number of operational and compliance issues to work through we do have agreement in principle.”

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

Following a massive street parade on Monday the Highlanders will take the Investec Super Rugby Trophy to their support base over the next few weeks. In conjunction with their community partner PlaceMakers the trophy, which weighs and impressive 28kg, will be taken to various centres throughout the Highlanders’ region to provide photo opportunities for the fans.

Highlanders’ General Manager Roger Clark said “at the game on Saturday and at the parade on Monday so many people, young and old, wanted photos with the cup and it just wasn’t possible to give everyone an opportunity. We have decided the best thing we can do is to take the cup to as many towns in our region as we can over the next few days. We will do that in association with PlaceMakers as they have stores throughout our region”

Unfortunately no players will accompany the trophy as the team is now disbanding with players heading to the All Blacks, NZ Maori and their respective provincial union teams.

As the Investec Super Rugby competition is changing format next year the teams will be playing for a new trophy; as the last winners of the current competition the Highlanders will keep the trophy.

The Trophy Tour dates are as follows:

Friday 10th PlaceMakers Oamaru

Saturday 11th PlaceMakers Dunedin  

Sunday 12th PlaceMakers Invercargill

Monday 13th PlaceMakers Gore

Tuesday 14th PlaceMakers Te Anau

Wednesday 15th PlaceMakers Queenstown

Thursday 16th PlaceMakers Wanaka

Friday 17th PlaceMakers Cromwell

Saturday 18th PlaceMakers Alexandra

The trophy will be on display between 10am and 2pm at each location.

Highlanders' head coach, Jamie Joseph, has named the same side that beat the NSW  Waratahs in an electrifying semi-final in Sydney last weekend. A six forward and two back split on the reserves bench will give the hard working Highlanders' forward pack plenty of firepower for the final.

Elliot Dixon will play his 50th Super Rugby game for the Highlanders, capping off a great season for the Southland loose forward who was also named in the Maori All Blacks team earlier this week.

The backs have a settled look to them with the only change being Marty Banks returning to the reserves bench. 

This will be the Highlanders first final since they played the Crusaders in Dunedin in 1999 and the 2015 team has more 13 games so far, more than any other Highlanders team in history! How they would love to win 14!

2015 Investec Super Rugby Final - Hurricanes v Highlanders, Westpac Stadium, Wellington - 7.35pm Saturday 4th July 

1. Brendon Edmonds

2. Liam Coltman

3. Josh Hohneck

4. Alex Ainley

5. Mark Reddish

6. Elliot Dixon

7. James Lentjes

8. Nasi Manu (co-captain)

9. Aaron Smith

10. Lima Sopoaga

11. Patrick Osborne

12. Richard Buckman

13. Malakai Fekitoa

14. Waisake Naholo

15. Ben Smith (co-captain)

Reserves

16. Ash Dixon

17. Daniel Lienert-Brown

18. Ross Geldenhuys

19. Joe Wheeler

20. Gareth Evans

21. Shane Christie

22. Fumiaki Tanaka

23. Marty Banks

Head Coach: Jamie Joseph

Assistant Coaches: Tony Brown & Scott McLeod

Team Manager: Paul McLaughlan

Saturday’s semi-final will see the Highlanders’ field an almost identical starting fifteen to the side that beat the Chiefs last Saturday in an encounter of epic proportions. The only change - openside flanker James Lentjes replaces the injured Dan Pryor. Lentjes was called in for injuries earlier in the season and has showed a lot of promise in his  four games to date.

The team also welcomes back experienced lock Joe Wheeler from a lengthy injury break to take his place on the bench alongside Trent Renata. Renata replaces the versatile Marty Banks who took a head knock during the week and while working through the concussion protocols is unavailable for action this week.

The team will again be captained by the experienced duo of Ben Smith and Nasi Manu who will be playing their 104th and 80th game respectively.

 Waratahs v Highlanders, Allianz Stadium, Sydney - Saturday 27th June, 7.55pm AEST (9.55pm NZST)

1.   Brendon Edmonds

2.   Liam Coltman

3.   Josh Hohneck

4.   Alex Ainley

5.   Mark Reddish

6.   Elliot Dixon

7.   James Lentjes

8.   Nasi Manu (co-Captain)

9.   Aaron Smith

10. Lima Sopoaga

11. Patrick Osborne

12. Richard Buckman

13. Malakai Fekitoa

14. Waisake Naholo

15. Ben Smith (co-Captain)

 

Reserves:

16. Ash Dixon

17. Daniel Lienert-Brown

18. Ross Geldenhuys

19. Joe Wheeler

20. Gareth Evans

21. Fumiaki Tanaka

22. Trent Renata

23. Shaun Treeby

Unavailable:  Dan Pryor (elbow), Kane Hames (knee) John Hardie (rib) Marty Banks (concussion)

Head Coach: Jamie Joseph Assistant Coaches: Tony Brown, Scott McLeod Manager: Paul McLaughlan

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