The 34-year-old will start in his second Rugby World Cup final this weekend, playing his 125th and final game for the All Blacks.
Hoping to add the final polish to his legacy and leave international rugby on the highest of highs, Smith is drawing on his 11 years of experience playing against the Springboks.
“Well it’s always a funny one with the South Africans,” he told The Front Row Daily Show. “Because they’re really big men, for me, in that week it’s always about showing as much courage and intent as you can but also knowing it’s going to be a heavily forward-dominated game.
“They’re going to try slow our ball down and I want to make sure we can play at speed, move their big boys around, try suck juice out of them so their scrum and maul isn’t as good.
“When I have to make those tackles and tackle those big boys, it’s like I said, show that courage and be courageous and go in there and go low and hang on.
“It’s a yin and yang for me, being as physical and tough as you can, but also I want to put them under pressure by my speed and my skill and as a team and as an attack. But they always bring the best out of us.
“you know where you’ve got to go mentally and physically and also know that if we play at a speed and tempo and trust our instincts, we can do special things against them as well.”
Smith’s is one of many legendary careers international rugby will farewell in the final weekend of the 2023 Rugby World Cup, including fellow All Blacks legends Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Dane Coles and Beauden Barrett.
He’s been mindful of not letting his emotions throughout his final weeks in the black jersey overwhelm him but is very clear on what the journey means.
“It means everything to me in the sense of, well, I’m small. I’m from a small town. I was undersized and highly doubted from a lot of people. But then, I also had people who highly believed in me and gave me the ambition to dream big and gave me the confidence to go hey, you can do it if you want to play for your country, to put on the black jersey. I’ve been very blessed to pull it on a lot of times and there’s nothing better than that.
“That’s why I play, that’s why I wake up every day, that’s why I train as hard as I do and focus and set goals. It’s because I want to wear that jersey again.
“It’s such a special and limited time you get in the jersey and I just want to have no regrets.
“Pulling it on, that cloak, the black cloak and the silver fern on your chest, it makes you think of family, all the pain. But then you look around and see the other brothers in black, you sing the anthem, you do the haka, and then the whistle goes and to be a part of that legacy just means a lot.”
While balancing the emotional and physical challenges of such a game, Smith is keeping everything in perspective.
“It’s very unique but it’s also, as much as it’s a really big game, trying to keep it as normal as possible as well. But knowing the stakes on the line; this is the game to give it absolutely everything you’ve got, empty the tank, see where the cards lie.
“We’re in the big dance and we’ve got an opportunity. This was the chance I wanted, that came down to nailing each week, each day and that’s all I’ve been trying to do and give the energy and love and respect the jersey deserves. And our country, representing them as best we can.”