OPINION: At the beginning of this year, Ben Smith at the Highlanders headquarters in Dunedin, Pau, embarrassed to admit that his French language skills have not yet been completed. Therefore, it is not surprising that he finds no joy in life.
Being an All Black is a serious business, especially if they stutter, and no one looks heavier than Smith.
He may have won a high ball in both tests – at the fullback or the outside wing – and looks incapable of beating a man from the outside: his retirement from the All Blacks squad this weekend is not a real surprise.
There is a solution. Send him back to a Dunedin for a Ranfurly Shield Defense: The veteran desperately needs some joy and self-confidence.
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Otago meets Southland in the Ranfurly Shield defense on Saturday afternoon – too early for Smith – but on August 30 there is another possible defense against Manawatu.
It would put a few more punters in the door and give Smith the opportunity to put on the Otago colors again. a chance to play at the Forsyth Barr Stadium again, a chance he denied this year at the Highlanders due to the severe thigh injury that ruined the second half of the season.
The old Miter 10 Cup could also take some love. Senior All Blacks are now rarely seen – to the detriment of New Zealand rugby.
But it's about more than sentimentality or romance: Smith needs a foot; away from the test arena he has to feel the thrill of one or two players.
It's way too early to write his obituary on All Blacks, but it seems to be just one track underpinning.
His form in the first half of Super Rugby was good without being spectacular, but there was certainly no sign of his current discomfort.
The key event after that was the unpleasant downfall in a duel between Luke Jacobson and the Chiefs in early May.
Smith was no longer visible until the Super Rugby quarterfinal against the Crusaders, where he lagged behind his normal spark. Before this game, he discovered that his leg was "numb" after the duel with Jacobson: Perhaps this incident demanded more tribute than we had all imagined. With 33 you do not bounce back as fast as you did when you were 25 years old.
It's still too early to write Smith's obituary on All Blacks, but he must have the pleasure of just playing a code with a few guys for whom the game is not quite life or death.
It's also about the timing. The All Blacks play only on September 7 against Tonga in Hamilton. For those who were overlooked in the second Bledisloe test, it will be an eternity. The Miter 10 Cup is a treasure for New Zealand rugby and the All Blacks must use it.
Will Smith be back in a black jersey? Yes. But he should be in blue and gold before.