Smith holds his spot
Toby Smith was just 19 when he first propped against Hawke’s Bay in Napier as a replacement off of the bench.
Two years on Smith has become a fixture in the Waikato front row at the tender age of 21. He started in Saturday’s 27-27 draw against the Magpies, scoring his side’s fourth try.
The young prop is pushing hard for a place in next year’s Chiefs Super 15 squad in his own right after this year making six appearances for the Chiefs from the wider training group.
It is a mark of just how firmly Smith has established himself in the Waikato front row at loosehead prop this year that, after missing last week’s away win over North Harbour with a hamstring strain, he has immediately reclaimed his place at the expense of Ben May, who got valuable game time in that match on his return from long-term knee and back injuries.
‘‘I was pretty happy to get back into it so fast. . . knowing I’m 100 per cent,’’ Smith said.
You might have thought injury layoff was a welcome break for Smith after starting the first five matches of the ITM Cup, but such is the competition for places in the Waikato tight five that he would have preferred not to have given May the chance to get his position back.
‘‘Bam (Ben May) had a good game [last week] and scrums really well so it was good to get back,’’ Smith said.
The young man who has nine papers left to complete his business management degree at Waikato University, but whose studies are on hold, has his sights firmly fixed on proving to the Chiefs coaches that he is worthy of a Super 15 contract.
Judging by his strong play so far he is certainly making his mark.
‘‘I’ve got to work on a few things around scrum time and also around the field, but I’m just trying to build my confidence and get better week by week.’’
Regular game time has helped after coming back from a shoulder reconstruction that sidelined him last season.
‘‘With my injuries, and coming off the bench other years, it was hard to build any momentum or confidence, but getting quite a bit of game time this year has definitely helped.
‘‘Being in there week to week you can build on things and start to get a bit of a flow going in your game.’’ – Waikato Times
FIRST PICK: Hard work has earned Toby Smith a regular starting spot for Waikato.