Smith had cheek and a ton of tal­ent

The Dominion Post - - Sport - LO­GAN SA­VORY

The man who Aaron Smith con­tro­ver­sially ousted as the High­landers No 9 says, de­spite the ri­valry, he was aware from day one Smith had some­thing spe­cial about him.

Smith will play his 100th Su­per Rugby game for the High­landers tonight when they play the Mel­bourne Rebels in Dunedin.

For the first two years of Smith’s ten­ure at the High­landers in 2011 and 2012, he butted heads with then-All Black half­back Jimmy Cowan.

From the out­set, Smith made it clear he wanted Cowan’s No 9 jer­sey.

It in­cluded a cheeky sug­ges­tion to Cowan’s face in Pre­to­ria fol­low­ing a High­landers win over the Bulls that he felt he should be start­ing ahead of Cowan.

It was a bold move con­sid­er­ing ear­lier that day Smith had just made his Su­per Rugby de­but as a sub­sti­tute and Cowan was an in­cum­bent All Black at the time.

Cowan re­mained as the reg­u­lar starter through­out the 2011 sea­son, be­fore the tran­si­tion hap­pened in 2012. Cowan started the first game of that cam­paign, be­fore Smith took the reins for the ma­jor­ity of the re­main­der of the sea­son.

The other twist that sea­son was Cowan was set to bring up a fairy­tale mile­stone by play­ing his 100th Su­per Rugby game at his home ground at Rugby Park in In­ver­cargill.

A mar­ket­ing push had al­ready started, but just a cou­ple of weeks ear­lier coach Jamie Joseph opted to not use Cowan at all from the bench and in­stead the game in In­ver­cargill turned out to be his 99th cap.

In­stead Cowan brought up game No 100 a week later when he came off the bench against the Storm­ers in Dunedin.

‘‘Look­ing back at it, you want to be play­ing don’t you? I was no dif­fer­ent,’’ Cowan said.

‘‘I had Aaron Smith com­ing at me very very quickly, and he was play­ing very good rugby.

‘‘It was a mat­ter of time wasn’t it? He had the youth, he had the en­ergy, and I was com­ing to the end of my time play­ing in New Zealand.

‘‘I’ve got a lot of time for Aaron Smith. It just shows you what he has done in the High­landers jer­sey.

‘‘He’s a re­mark­able guy and I’m a huge fan of his.’’

Aaron Smith will bring up his 100th game for the High­landers in Dunedin tonight af­ter suc­ceed­ing Jimmy Cowan, right, as the top half­back at the fran­chise in 2012.

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