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Ben Smith leads Highlanders against Waratahs
February 13, 2014

Ben Smith will wear the captain's armband for the first time since his schooldays when he leads the Highlanders in their Super Rugby pre-season trial against New South Wales Waratahs in Newcastle on Friday.

He enjoyed his most recent captaincy experience when he led the Kings High School first XV in Dunedin as a halfback. "I was right in amongst it then so it was quite easy," he said on Wednesday.

Smith, 27, who has scored 14 tries in 27 Tests for the All Blacks, and who was their outstanding back last year, does not expect any particular problems in leading the Highlanders from fullback.

"There will be challenges from fullback but we've got good leaders in the forwards and at halfback so they'll be my eyes and ears," Smith said. No.8 Nasi Manu has been named Highlanders co-captain but he will miss the Waratahs game as he tries to overcome a pectoral muscle injury.

Smith, who played on the wing for the All Blacks last year, and then moved to centre when Conrad Smith was not available for the northern hemisphere tour, said that New Zealand coaches had not made requests about where he should play. Smith said that he was happy playing fullback, wing or centre.

The Highlanders face a big year as they seek to bounce back from a disastrous 2013 campaign in which they won only three matches and finished second-bottom on the ladder, above only the relegated Southern Kings.

Smith, too, faces a big year, as he was the busiest elite player in New Zealand last year - playing in all 14 Tests for the All Blacks and all 16 games for the Highlanders.

"I've got away to central Otago and done some fishing, boating and waterskiing," he said of his off-season. "It's always good to get a bit of sun and relax a bit. Now I'm refreshed and ready to go for another season of Super Rugby."

© AAP

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