Whether it be with work, family, socially or in the new-age quest for a fit healthy lifestyle, balance is what many strive for in life.

Wayne Smith's passion and devotion to the All Blacks has long dominated his world. At 60-years-young, he is about to get some time back.

Smith is ready for a change, after one final test in Brisbane; ready to step outside the bubble.

He will miss the people greatly, many of whom he has worked alongside for decades, forming lasting friendships.


But it has got to the point where he's embarrassed by the adulation and farewells that have flowed since he made the difficult decision to leave the All Blacks management some six months ago.

"It's just someone leaving the environment that's had a long time in it," Smith says in his typically understated, humble way. "I don't see that as really important. My personality is such I just like to get on with things. I don't enjoy the attention.

"The trophies and titles you win tarnish over time but the relationships don't. I'll be annoyed if any of these people come through Cambridge and don't call in for a cup of coffee."

Like everyone, Smith was shaped by his upbringing. Waikato's small rural town of Putaruru kept him grounded. Through his extensive association with the All Blacks - five years as a player, 15 coaching - he has never projected overconfidence.

In the early years Smith regularly questioned whether he deserved to be an All Blacks first five-eighth. Moving into coaching, this allowed him to forge genuine empathy and understanding with players.

"There's a lot of kids that come into the environment like that. You are never quite sure how long you are going to be here or whether you've got what it takes. Connecting with those people I've really enjoyed."

Smith is seen as the world's best assistant coach. In many respects that sells him short. With Sir Graham Henry, Dave Rennie at the Chiefs and in this team, he has been much more a co-head coach.

You name it, Smith has done it in coaching. Except, of course, the set piece. No front-rower would take kindly to a first-five telling them where to put their head. At various stages Smith has led the attack, defence, backs, counter attack. Interestingly, after turning to coaching in 1986, his first stint as assistant came when linked with Henry and Steve Hansen after returning from Northampton in 2004.

Prior to that he looked after every area as head coach. Smith loved being hands on; involved in every minute of every training but the landscape changed dramatically. A head coach is now overwhelmed with commitments from sponsorship to media. The role comes with immense scrutiny, and much work is put into specific public messaging.

"If I ever went back into full-time coaching, which I probably won't, I'd want to be head coach. I'm at the stage now where I don't want to do all the analysis; all the detail any more but I like helping people and that's the role of the head coach.

"An assistant coach is all about the behind the scenes work; about coaching your area. I've got an interest in the whole game so that's probably where I'd go in the future."

Smith has always gone over and above for players, often taking them into his home for meals. In recent times he had a profound influence on Sonny Bill Williams, Anton Lienert-Brown, Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett.

He reluctantly singles out Andrew Mehrtens, then Dan Carter, as players he learnt the most from, and worked most with.

"Initially I thought what am I going to be able to teach this kid because Dan had immense rugby nous. Then I realised it's not about teaching him - it's about creating a relationship with him; questioning him, generating some self-awareness and getting him to coach others."

Jerome Kaino also gets special mention.

"Jerome has been a flag bearer for the defence now for several years. He'll probably finish his career as the greatest six of all time - he'd certainly be in the argument with Ian Kirkpatrick."

Hansen this week praised Smith's innovation; his world-leading embrace of technology and special touch with younger players.

"He's pushed me in ways he probably doesn't even know," Hansen said. "It's been a pleasure to coach with him. We haven't had too many disagreements and both of us are still here so we've survived them. It'll be a big day for him come Saturday but he won't be defined by whatever happens."

Leaving the All Blacks naturally evokes mixed emotions. Smith, like all management in this team, spends 170-200 days each year away from home, travelling locally and globally.

He will enjoy watching the All Blacks with a beer in hand rather than heart in mouth; not having to analyse every moment, think about what to say at half time and endure the pressure of the result resting on his shoulders.

"The other side is I'll miss the fact you're part of one of the greatest teams in any sport in the world."

Theoretically, Smith is about to have an abundance of free time, though one suspects his desire to work 15-20 weeks a year will quickly fill up.

Italy will be his first point of call. Smith plans to venture with wife Trish to the Mogliano club in near Venice. He will also, inevitably, help Conor O'Shea and the national team.

"If he wants me to come and talk to his coaches I'll go and do that. It's more being able to help their footy without doing too much work. If I do travel Trish will probably come most of the time and I won't be on tight schedules."

Smith will continue to work with Kobe in Japan, a club where the Chiefs have an established relationship, and eventually formalise an agreement to mentor New Zealand's leading coaches.

This incredibly valuable resource won't be lost.

"We've spoken about that but effectively I said I wanted a bit of a break and we'll look at that in the future. It's a real thrill for me to go around and not so much coach them but discuss trends, look at ideas. You learn as much as you give when you're talking to those people."

Outside those projects his campervan needs a warrant before trips to Takapuna, Mount Maunganui and Hahei can be savoured over summer. The Smiths have owned the camper for roughly four years but, to date, other family members have largely clocked up its 10,000km.

Smith leaves the All Blacks in good shape, with his legacy set in stone. And after more than two decades of service to the black jersey, he remains selfless to the end.

"The people in here don't owe me anything. I owe the game. If I can move on and this team keeps playing well to carry on the legacy I'll be happy."