Aaron Smith is no longer an All Black. After more than 120 Test matches, the glistening international career of arguably the greatest halfback in Test rugby history came to a heartbreaking end.
New Zealand were beaten 12-11 by a tough South African outfit in Saturday’s Rugby World Cup final at Stade de France, but Smith still found a reason to smile after the decider.
You could see it on the All Blacks’ faces as the Springboks walked onto the podium to receive their gold medals at the prestigious Webb Ellis Cup – the New Zealanders were hurting.
But moments before, Aaron Smith had walked onto that very same stage to collect his silver medal. Smith showed his son the medal, and suddenly the fact it was silver wasn’t everything.
Smith, 34, wanted to win the final, of course he did, but sharing that stage with one of his kids was a moment “you have to be grateful for.”
So, Aaron Smith is no longer an All Black, but he is a dad.
“I went to get my kids, they don’t know how you are feeling but they still love you. That really grounded me, they still love their dad,” Smith said.
“He still loved the medal, those are the moments you have to be grateful for and brings things into perspective. Family is important.
“This game was important but I came off the field and I gave everything I could and the team had. Sport is like that. The memories I have made and been a part of, from the quarter-final, it has been a hell of a month.”
The All Blacks can hold their heads up high after the painful defeat. Captain Sam Cane was red-carded midway through the first term which was a hammer blow to New Zealand’s hopes of World Cup glory.
But to their credit, the All Blacks refused to throw in the towel. New Zealand even had a chance to snatch the title at the death but the Boks managed to hold on for gold.
“We didn’t die wondering,” Smith told reporters. “I think we threw everything we had and the champions South Africa held strong in those key moments and they held strong in the moments, got turnovers.
“They nailed those little moments. That’s rugby. That’s Test match rugby and it’s brutal sometimes. It was an amazing game to be a part of and I was proud of our effort tonight.
“We always have plans around if we get cards and how our game changes, depending on what the position is of the guy carded,” Smith added when asked about Cane’s red card.
“It was good at half-time to get some alignment on that and how we wanted to play and try to strike from scrums.
“We held strong with one less forward and had opportunities but we just couldn’t get over the line again.”