'It’s hurtful and ridiculous': All Blacks star responds to growing criticism
REACTION: All Blacks star Aaron Smith gave the media a sense of the emotions running through the All Blacks camp ahead of the flight to South Africa on Friday.
The All Blacks are underdogs heading into their two matches against the world champions in the opening rounds of the Rugby Championship.
Ian Foster’s side has endured widespread criticism after their 1-2 series defeat to Ireland.
There have been calls for NZ Rugby to fire Foster, while captain Sam Cane’s leadership abilities have also been under the spotlight.
With all those things weighing heavy on the All Blacks’ shoulders, Smith said the players have had a long and hard look at themselves as they prepare to face the Boks in Nelspruit and Johannesburg.
“The last two weeks there has definitely been a lot of outside noise,” Smith told media before they started their long haul to South Africa.
“As a group, we had a good meeting on Monday, and a lot of it is around these are the right people in the room and us players have to do our part, get our stuff sorted, get our preparation right.
“There’s nothing better than the challenge of playing South Africa in South Africa, we know what’s coming, and it’s up to us as players to own our part of it and get our own stuff right.
“The noise is the noise, he added. “The pressure of wearing the black jersey, or coaching it, is big. We know that, and it’s every time. We’ve had a couple of results not go our way, but it wasn’t for lack of effort as a group.
“The two days in Wellington were positive steps towards what we’re going to put out in South Africa.”
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#ICYMI: Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber has opened up on the two notable omissions from his Rugby Championship squad. #SouthAfrica #Springboks #NewZealand #AllBlacks #RugbyChampionship #RSAvNZL https://t.co/asDhupuaWX
— rugby365.com (@rugby365com) July 29, 2022
On Foster and Cane specifically, Smith added: “I’ve got a lot of love for Fozzie [Foster] … you always feel for the men in the room. You know they care, and to see a lot of the bad stuff around him and Sam Cane, it’s hurtful and it’s actually gone… it’s ridiculous how ruthless it’s actually been.
“I feel for them as men. We’re backing them and it’s up to us in the next two weeks to put a bit of pride back in the jersey for ourselves, but also the people who have been under the squeeze the most.”
Smith was also asked if the criticism had gone too far, to which he replied: “I think we can all admit that.”