Final home test a ‘dream’ for assistant coach
The administer of defence was a happy man on Saturday night. That wasn’t quite a tear in the eye of Wayne Smith, but it wasn’t far from it.
The final lap of the track has begun for the All Blacks assistant coach, and defence guru, with the record-breaking 57-0 dismantling of the Springboks in Albany, Smith’s last test on home soil.
He steps aside after the Brisbane Bledisloe and hands his defence clipboard over to Scott McLeod. It was the first time the All Blacks had blanked the South Africans since 2008’s 19-0 victory in Cape Town, and just the fifth occasion ever.
‘‘It was pretty special,’’ said Smith late on Saturday night. ‘‘We knew there was going to be a whole- hearted performance, that there was going to be something pretty good. We were confident of that.
‘‘But that was special. It was brutal on defence, and it was brutal on attack, and that’s what you’re looking for. And I don’t think I’ve seen a better forward display in taking apart a team than that.’’
It was typical Smith, deflecting from his team’s defensive masterclass to praise another aspect of the performance. But he was adamant the effort from his big men up front had been crucial.
‘‘It’s sort of a dream performance to finish on. All-round too. That’s the best forward display I’ve seen for ages.
‘‘The attitude was really good. You can tell early in the week what the tension is like, and what the edge is like, and you need a bit of edge to have a performance like that. I could tell early on this was going to be a pretty big performance.’’
But there was no doubt that Smith was perhaps the only person at the stadium more rapt with the zero on the scoreboard, than the 57.
‘‘It’s been a while coming this year,’’ he responded. ‘‘We haven’t been quite as good this year. If you’re stealing their lineout ball it makes defence a wee bit easier – you don’t actually have to tackle.
‘‘We’ve wanted to step up the defence for a while, wanted to be more physical, and tonight was the test because the Springboks had been playing well.’’
And those emotions? Had it home that this was the last time he will represent the All Blacks in New Zealand?
‘‘Yeah, it has,’’ he said with a broad grin. ‘‘I was just having a beer in the changing rooms with the boys. The Boks came in, as they always do. It’s surreal to think it’s the last one.’’
Wayne Smith said the All Blacks were ‘‘brutal on defence, and brutal on attack’’ against the Springboks.