Highlanders scrum-half Aaron Smith is trying to bite his tongue but admits his on-field interaction with referees continues to be a “work-on”.
Smith was quizzed on Tuesday about his on-field manner, after teammate Ben Smith was involved in an exchange with referee Nick Briant during the Highlanders’ 25-17 over New Zealand South Island rivals the Crusaders last Saturday.
Highlanders captain Ben Smith approached Briant to ask for the Television Match Official to intervene following a try to Crusaders back-rower Jordan Taufua. Referee Briant agreed a few moments later, and the decision was soon overturned for a knock-on in the lead-up.
But the skipper’s actions didn’t go down well with the competition’s administrators, with SANZAAR Game Manager Lyndon Bray telling stuff.co.nz that each Super Rugby franchise could soon expect to see some literature around what was, and was not, acceptable.
Aaron Smith said he wasn’t aware from any warning from Bray as yet, and did his best to play down the situation from last Saturday.
“I haven’t really heard anything about it [the debate] until now and, if you remember, it was a four-minute play,” Aaron Smith said. “So I was on the goal-line, hands on knees; I don’t really remember much. I just remember he [Briant] did what he did; he went up top and we got the call, which is all that we wanted.”
All Blacks scrum-half Smith has always been vocal on field, but he has come in for increased criticism in recent times with some pundits adamant the veteran No. 9 is overstepping the line.
Conscious of how too much chatter could adversely affect his side, Smith knows he must better learn to manage his reactions when a decision doesn’t fall the Highlanders’ way.
“I try not to talk to them [referees], I’m a pretty vocal person at the best of times,” he said. “I don’t think they like me too much when I’m not happy about a call.
“But it’s a work-on of mine and, yeah, I just try and stay away from them.”
Asked if he knew when he was overstepping, Smith replied: “They say ‘that’s enough, Aaron’, and that’s pretty obvious.”
Smith’s other great challenge is learning to adjust to life as one of the Highlanders’ elder statesmen.
That involves both a better pre- and post-game management of his 29-year-old body as well as an understanding of the latest video game to sweep the globe.
“We had a line up from oldest to youngest yesterday, it was Alex Ainley, ‘Bender’ [Ben Smith] and me; so we’re getting up there,” he said of his age. “I still feel young at heart, I’ve got a few greys [hairs] and stuff.
“There’s this new game out — Fortnite — everyone’s playing. I’m 29 and all the boys are playing that, but I still play. I think I’m still young at heart, a pretty energetic kind of guy.
“But you notice when we have these derby games and all the young fellas want to go out and stuff; I just want to go home and go to bed. So it’s changed in those senses of your mindsets; play hard and go out and party all night, I can’t do that anymore. You need to ice more or recover more.
“I asked one of the young fellas what they were doing in 2012 and he was like ‘I was sixth form’. I was like great, this is awesome.”