Super Rugby Trans-Tasman: Highlanders' Aaron Smith relishing opportunity to play Australian teams

Highlanders co-captain Aaron Smith is relishing the opportunity to finally play in a competition that isn't Super Rugby Aotearoa.

The southerners kick off the first trans-Tasman encounter since COVID-19 halted Super Rugby last year, bringing a much-needed change of scenery for our top players.

The Highlanders build-up has a different edge this week. After beating themselves up in the Kiwi derbies for the last three months, they're treasuring the opportunity to do battle with a Queensland Reds side on top of their game. 

"It's great to play a different team that's not one of your mates," Highlanders co-captain Aaron Smith tells Newshub. 

Smith has been vocal about the bruising toll of Super Rugby Aotearoa, after watching several of his All Blacks teammates have their seasons ended early. 

"It has a cost and there's no point in New Zealand wasting some of our best talent's time playing rugby by injuring ourselves," Smith says. 

There will no doubt be some more injuries in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman, but crossing the ditch for a different challenge is refreshing for Smith. 

Even after 156 Super Rugby games, touring with the Highlanders is still as exciting now, as it was when he debuted 11 years ago. 

"The more connected you are, the better you know players, the more you know how they tick as well," Smith tells Newshub. "When things get hard, you know what to say, because you know that guy on a deeper level."

Smith will hope it helps nullify a potent Reds team, which have found their feet this year after winning Super Rugby AU.

The 32-year-old is a deep thinker of the game and knows exactly where the Reds threats lie, but backing up after the highs of winning Super Rugby AU last week won't be easy.

"Now they're going to try and get back on the train, and do it again," Smith says. "It's going to be bloody hard."

Smith hasn't played an Australian side since the Highlanders' 28-22 loss to the Rebels in February 2020, which was 441 days ago, but he's out to ensure back-to-back defeats to Aussie teams doesn't happen.

Join Newshub for live updates of the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman clash between the Highlanders and Queensland Reds from 7:05pm Friday