PROMISING halfback Aaron Smith has lost his All Black starting spot after breaking a team recovery protocol.
He will be on the bench for Saturday’s test against South Africa in Dunedin, after coach Steve Hansen confirmed he wasn’t considered for a start because of a breach in discipline following last week’s win over Argentina in Wellington.
“Unfortunately for Aaron Smith we’ve got a strong focus on recovery and he broke a protocol in that area last week, so that made him ineligible for selection for the first XV,” Fairfax NZ reported Hansen as saying.
He is replaced by veteran Piri Weepu, while other changes see hooker Andrew Hore, lock Sam Whitelock and loose forward Liam Messam move into the starting lineup.
It was Smith’s demotion that is the main talking point after an impressive start to his test career.
Hansen wouldn’t elaborate on the indiscretion.
“There’s nothing to elaborate on.
“He just broke a protocol that’s a non-negotiable and the consequence is you don’t start in the XV if you break it.”
It is believed Smith arrived back to the team hotel late after the match.
Coach Hansen said Smith, who plays for Manawatu, was disappointed by his actions.
“I don’t think he wanted to give up his jersey lightly. It’s been dealt with, it’s not something that’s a major but it was a non-negotiable. It’s like your family – if you have rules there are consequences if you break them. That’s the way we’re living, and we make no excuse for that.”
Hansen said his three other starting changes were more simple.
“We’ve got two quality hookers, either one could have started, but Kevvy [Mealamu] has carried a lot of the workload so it’s time for Horey to step up and do that.
“Last week we said that Retallick was playing better than Whitelock, and he’s responded particularly well to the performance message and came out and played well. That’s allowed us to look after Brodie – he’s a young player who doesn’t necessarily have to start every test at this stage of his career.”
Messam had been outstanding in 2012.
“He’s bringing a consistency of high quality performance,” added Hansen.
“There’s just a little bit more physicality there than we were getting off Victor [Vito]. He’s comfortable in his own skin at the moment and is playing particularly well.”
Weepu was determined to make the most of his call-up for what will be his 63rd test cap.
“Everyone wants to be part of the starting lineup – that’s why you do all the hard work. This is my chance and I’ll be trying to make most of this on Saturday night. I’ve been doing everything I can to be in the starting lineup, and it’s a good opportunity for myself.”
There is one change on the bench, with Tamati Ellison replacing Ben Smith.
Hansen was expecting a typical challenge from the Springboks.
“You don’t go too far away from your strengths do you? They’ve clearly underlined what their strengths are — it’s a kick-chase game, and a lot of driving and physicality up front. I can’t imagine them wanting to change that, but you’ve got to expect the unexpected as well.”
ALL BLACKS: Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Julian Savea, Aaron Cruden, Piri Weepu; Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (capt), Liam Messam, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Charlie Faumuina, Brodie Retallick, Victor Vito, Aaron Smith, Beauden Barrett, Tamati Ellison.