Super Rugby 2019: Highlanders downplay Ben Smith injury after Chiefs draw

Highlanders and All Blacks coaching staff are breathing a huge sigh of relief, with fullback Ben Smith cleared of a serious injury.

Smith was forced from the field late in the Highlanders' 31-31 draw against the Chiefs in Dunedin after he slipped into a tackle by Luke Jacobson. As he fell, his leg twisted awkwardly.

Smith also suffered a knock, which led to blood coming out of his head. After lying on the ground for an extended period, the 32-year-old was assisted from the field by medical staff.

Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger revealed after the match that Smith had avoided serious damage.

"He's got a hamstring strain, and he's also got a good laceration on the chin, and he's getting stitched up at the moment," Mauger said.

"Structurally he's fine, it's just soft tissue."

Initially there were fears Smith had sustained a severe knee injury due to the way he slipped in the tackle.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen with Ben Smith.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen with Ben Smith. Photo credit: Sky Sports

Smith was joined on the sidelines soon after by All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, who was watching the New Zealand derby in the stands.

Hansen in particular will be relieved as they have already lost live-wire utility Damien McKenzie for the World Cup due to a knee injury.

Smith is still expected to miss a few weeks to recover from his hamstring injury, as the All Blacks won't want to take any risks with their number one fullback.

Saturday's result leaves the Highlanders third in the New Zealand conference on 25 competition points, while the Chiefs remain in last, six points behind the southern franchise.

The Highlanders host the Jaguares next week in their first match against each other since 2016, while the Chiefs are at home to the Sharks.

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