The All Black’s 62-cap Ben Smith is set to take a sabbatical from rugby at the end of August. Smith will take part in the Highlander’s Super Rugby play-offs and New Zealand’s first two Rugby Championship matches.
All Black’s vice-captain Ben Smith re-signed with the Highlanders and New Zealand in February, a contract that would take him through to 2020. Smith will take the option within his contract to take a sabbatical that will see him miss eight tests. He will join the likes of All Black greats Richie McCaw and Dan Carter who also took breaks in their career, allowing the mind and body to rest from a rigorous and intense rugby career.
Smith was ruled out of the second and third Lions series tests last month with concussion, later re-diagnosed with an inner ear infection. The 31-year-old Dunedin man is expected to miss four Rugby Championship tests, a third test in Australia and the Autumn test series matches against the Barbarians, France, Scotland and Wales.
Smith is one of the most experienced heads and a key part to the All Blacks leadership group. This will leave New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen with the opportunity to allow Hurricanes fullback Jordie Barrett to have an extended run in the national sides 15 jersey. Hansen will not struggle for quality players to fill Smith’s role, with experienced international Israel Dagg also an option at fullback.