Seasoned Smith up for new challenge
Conrad Smith (file pic)
By Robert Lowe
A seasoned Test campaigner he might be, but centre Conrad Smith will also be one of the novices when the All Blacks look to lock up the inaugural Rugby Championship against the Pumas next weekend.
The Hurricanes skipper has 60 caps to his name, but none was earned on Argentinian soil.
Playing in a new country is an experience he's definitely up for and one he's out to enjoy.
"It's a new challenge and you don't get many new challenges as rugby players," he said.
The last time the All Blacks were in Argentina, in 2006 when flanker Jerry Collins captained the side in a 25-19 victory, Smith was sidelined with a broken leg.
Just four of the present 28-strong tour party played in that match in Buenos Aires - first five-eighth Daniel Carter, halfback Piri Weepu, prop Tony Woodcock and hooker Andrew Hore, while second five-eighth Ma'a Nonu was an unused substitute.
While the Pumas sit bottom of the Rugby Championship table, they have pushed all three of the other teams.
In their 21-5 defeat to the All Blacks in Wellington, they were firmly in the contest until the home side kicked away in the final quarter.
They can also count themselves unlucky to get only a 16-16 draw against the Springboks at Mendoza and then to be edged out 23-19 by the Wallabies on the Gold Coast.
Their competitiveness doesn't surprise the 30-year-old Smith, who predicted it before the tournament began.
He knows they will be an even more difficult proposition in front of their own passionate fans at La Plata next Sunday (NZ time) than they were in Wellington.
"History has shown they're a particularly tough team to beat on their home soil, so that indicates what an advantage it is to them," he said.
The only time the All Blacks have failed to defeat the Pumas in their 15 previous Tests was in Argentina - a 21-21 draw in Buenos Aires in 1985.