By Greg Stutchbury
WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Conrad Smith has been approached about leaving the Wellington Hurricanes during his long rugby career but he said he never had any intention of quitting the capital club.
The 32-year-old, dubbed the 'Snake', made his Super Rugby debut in 2004 and will become the sixth player to bring up 100 appearances in the bright yellow Hurricanes jersey when he leads the side against the South African Cheetahs in a must-win clash on Saturday.
"No, not really," centre Smith told reporters when asked if he had ever considered moving away from the team he joined after finishing a law degree at Wellington's Victoria University.
"Never another franchise in New Zealand, maybe once or twice overseas but that was never more than a thought. I've loved every season with this team."
While 100 appearances are becoming commonplace in Super Rugby, Smith, who has also played 75 tests for the All Blacks since 2004, will be achieving the milestone with just one team.
Five others have featured in 100 games for the Hurricanes with loose forward Rodney So'oialo and prop Neemia Tialata the only men to have played their entire Super Rugby careers in New Zealand's capital.
Fellow All Blacks centres Tana Umaga and Ma'a Nonu also reached a century of matches for the Hurricanes before they moved to other teams.
Hooker Andrew Hore played for the Canterbury Crusaders before moving to Wellington and notching 106 appearances for the capital club.
"It's pretty special. It kind of crept up on me during the off-season and then as it has come closer it's not something you think about a lot," said Smith.
"The last few days it has become a reality and you get a lot of nice things said ... as it's getting closer it's getting more emotional."
The 2011 World Cup winner, nicknamed the Snake for his ability to slither through seemingly impossible gaps, is rated as the world's best centre for his ability to set up attacks, organise the defensive line and suffocate the opposition.
The Hurricanes are mired in an eight-match losing streak that extends back to last season and some of his team mates spoke this week of getting their campaign back on track with a victory they could dedicate to Smith's milestone.
"I don't want it to be about me," Smith said. "I think there are other things that are motivating the team," he added of their 29-21 defeat by the ACT Brumbies last week.
"We understand we let ourselves down and that's the main motivating factor this week.
"It's a long season. It's how easy we can turn it around. We are determined this week but we're playing a good side who are difficult to defend against and have shown they can travel."
(Editing by Tony Jimenez)