Rugby World Cup: Aaron Smith signs off All Blacks career with final defeat to South Africa

With his test career now officially over, Aaron Smith can look back fondly on his time in the All Blacks, considered among the greatest to have ever laced a pair of boots for Aotearoa.

Smith and a host of other All Blacks stalwarts have ended their time in the black jersey, beaten 12-11 by the Springboks in the Rugby World Cup final.

While defeat was never the plan, leaving New Zealand come 2024 was.

Aaron Smith.
Aaron Smith. Photo credit: Getty Images

Along with Beauden Barrett, Richie Mo'unga, Shannon Frizell and Brodie Retallick, Smith will head to Japan next year, after a signing a contract to trade the land of the long white cloud to that of the rising sun.

The halfback's achievements need no explanation.

No back has played more than his 125 tests for the All Blacks, with Sam Whitelock (153), Richie McCaw (148), Keven Mealamu (132) and Kieran Read (127) the only players with more caps for New Zealand.

Smith, 34, was part of the side that won the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England and was an ever-present member of the national team since his 2011 debut. 

Now, with that chapter in his career over, h can look back with pride on what he's done for his country. 

"I'm just grateful for my time in the jersey," he said. "I've loved every minute.

"I'm still loving being an All Black right now. The next couple of days will be tough, but I just want to enjoy those.

"I'll look back with no regrets - I've given everything I think I could have. There's nothing better than representing your country, wearing the black jersey. 

"I've lived a boyhood dream."

While his time as a player might have ended, Smith's association with the All Blacks is far from done.

With so many of his teammates continuing into 2024 and beyond, Smith - like most of New Zealand - will watch with a keen eye to see how the All Blacks rebound from the low of defeat to South Africa. 

"It'll never be over," he continued. "Whenever the boys play, I can say I'm in that brotherhood.

"I love being an All Black, I always will. I'll always be proud of that." 

Rugby World Cup: Aaron Smith signs off All Blacks career with final defeat to South Africa