Two of our team members pick their No 9 for the Fans' World XV.
The All Blacks have been devastating when receiving quick ball from the base of the ruck, with both their forwards and backs combining for some breathtaking end-to-end tries. Smith's service has allowed for such continuity, and his running game has also caused opposition defences plenty of headaches.
What marked him as a standout last season was the improvement in his kicking game. Smith may not be in the class of Fourie du Preez or Will Genia just yet, but the consistency of his performances over the course of 2013 suggests that he may well ascend to that level very soon.
It's a myth that the All Blacks run everything. The reality is that they kick more than any Test team on the planet, and while No 10 and 15 have important roles to play in this regard, New Zealand also rely on their No 9 to put up the box kick and create the pressure. Smith has come a long way over the past 12 months, and his improvement has made the All Blacks, the best team in the world, that much more dangerous.
FOURIE DU PREEZ
Bringing Du Preez back into the Bok fold for the first time since the 2011 World Cup was a masterstroke by Heyneke Meyer.
The scrumhalf quickly dispelled concerns that he had lost his edge by playing club rugby in Japan, making a noticeable difference to the Bok attack when he came off the bench against Argentina at Soccer City. Suddenly the ball was being cleared away quickly from rucks which allowed the Bok ball-carriers to expose a disorganised defence.
Du Preez went on to start four Tests in 2013 and show South African rugby exactly what it had been missing. His decision-making was outstanding and his tactical kicking on a different level – the hang time on his box kicking allowed the Bok chasers to compete for the ball in the air, while his kicking into space also put the opposition under pressure (mostly notably against Wales when it resulted in a crucial try for Jaque Fourie).
Smith is a very good scrumhalf, but he's just not in the same league as Du Preez.
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