Fullback Ben Smith fends off concussion woes
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Ben Smith was happy to be giving someone else a headache for once.
The Highlanders fullback bounced back from his concussion woes in a big way against the Cheetahs last weekend, slicing through the Bloemfontein defence as the visitors came back from the length of the straight to win by a nose on the high veldt.
Smith couldn’t recall ever being involved in a game like it as the Highlanders came back from having two men in the sinbin and trailing 30-9 to steal the victory with a last-minute penalty by replacement goalkicker Chris Noakes.
“Being down that many points and managing to sneak in there was a good result but obviously we didn’t play our best rugby,” Smith told The Southland Times from Durban yesterday.
“I think when you are down by 20-something points, you just have to attack. We threw everything at it and a few gaps opened up, which was good. We just snuck in there really.”
Smith had been troubled by concussion since receiving a heavy blow in the narrow win over the Waratahs in Dunedin nearly a month ago.
He managed only 25 minutes against the Stormers the following week and then skipped the win over the Blues, although he could have played in a pinch.
The headaches and blurry vision have since cleared and Smith was back to his linebreaking best against the Cheetahs, something the Sharks will be eager to shut down at Kings Park on Sunday morning.
“It was good just to get back into training, have a good training week and that gave me some confidence going into the game,” Smith said.
“I just needed a bit of time to let it settle down and make sure I was ready. I was definitely hungry when I came back, it was hard watching and I was pretty excited at training last week.”
Durban is a popular destination for rugby players, and there is no shortage of off-field activities to break up the routine of hotels and trainings.
Highlanders lock Culum Retallick has taken advantage of the cheap surfboards on offer and the team were looking forward to a day off today.
While some would be heading into the water for some shark-diving, others would opt for a more relaxing round of golf.
After the mild weather they encountered while based in Johannesburg last week, rain has been forecast for this weekend in Durban.
Meanwhile, the Sharks, who are likely to welcome back key forwards Ryan Kankowski and “Beast” Mtawarira this weekend, are 10 points behind South African conference leaders the Bulls and Stormers after only four wins this season.
Refreshed by the bye week, the John Plumtree-coached side are hoping to make a renewed push for the play-offs. Their next five games leading up to the June test window are all in South Africa.
Plumtree, who coached alongside Highlanders gaffer Jamie Joseph in Wellington, has been vocal this week about referees keeping a vigilant eye on the Highlanders at the breakdown.
He was happy to see them penalised heavily by Marius Jonker for going off their feet at the ruck against the Cheetahs and hopes Steve Walsh will be equally punitive this weekend.
The Highlanders will name their team today.
– © Fairfax NZ News