14 Sep 2018

Hansen renews calls for taxpayer money

7:24 am on 14 September 2018

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen isn't backing away from his claims that New Zealand Rugby needs government money to stay at the top of the sport and keep the country's best talent onshore.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen. Photo: Photosport

Hansen was responding to comments from former All Black Lima Sopoaga, now playing in England, who says the money on offer overseas will soon outweigh the lure of the All Blacks' jersey.

Hansen doesn't entirely agree, and says New Zealand Rugby isn't at tipping point yet, but insists the current financial model isn't sustainable. He believes if the government and New Zealanders want the All Blacks to remain the best, they would be wise to invest.

The All Blacks became the first team to win back to back World Cups in 2015, cementing their place on World Rugby's throne.

Hansen said if they're to stay there, New Zealand Rugby needs more money.

"Rugby in this country is an important part of who we are and what we are and I believe the All Blacks over the years have been a great brand for New Zealand. You can go anywhere in the world and they may not know of New Zealand but they've heard of the All Blacks. I think it's an opportunity for us to take New Zealand to the rest of the world by using that brand. That's why I mention that they [the government] should be one of our sponsors."

Lima Sopoaga celebrates a try against the Springboks during the 2017 season.

Lima Sopoaga celebrates a try against the Springboks during the 2017 season. Photo: PhotoSport

Sopoaga has added fuel to Hansen's fire, suggesting players are becoming increasingly aware of the shortness of their careers and claiming the lure of the All Blacks jersey is waning in the face of big money offers that can set them and their families up for life.

Sopoaga joined the likes of Stephen Luatua, Charles Piutau, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Charlie Faumuina and Aaron Cruden as All Blacks squad members to have taken their talents north.

Hansen concedes that's particularly true of players from lower socio-economic backgrounds who are supporting extended families and says it's a constant battle New Zealand Rugby is fighting.

"We'll always understand that people are going to go overseas, particularly some of the Pasifika boys who are supporting more than just themselves. So we have to come up with ways to keep this big [All Blacks] machine going, because it's not going to just do it by itself."

Hansen said any financial contribution from the government would not go towards paying players.

"Not all the money we make goes to the players - it goes to funding grassroots, development and women's rugby.

"We spend more money than we have and that's not a great thing from a budget standpoint.

"If that [government] money went to, say, developing the game or women's rugby, then maybe some of the money we get from Adidas, AIG and some of our other sponsors can be used to keep players here."

So Hansen and New Zealand Rugby look set to pressure the government for taxpayer funding, but that's nothing like the pressure South Africa are under to perform tomorrow night.

They've lost three of their last four games, and the last time they played in New Zealand they were crushed 57-0.

Rassie Erasmus, Rugby Consultant of South Africa.

Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Coach Rassie Erasmus believes his head could roll if they suffer another heavy defeat in Wellington.

"We are under the pump, we've lost two in a row, but we're here to fix [Springbok rugby] long term. We want to be one, two, three in the world again not six, seven or eight. So if at cost I have to go, then it is what it is."

Flanker Francois Louw concedes Springbok fans will be calling for a green and gold cull should they fail.

Francois Louw and Richie McCaw RWC2015

Francois Louw and Richie McCaw RWC2015 Photo: PHOTOSPORT

"Yeah they will be, we're quite a competitive nation and very results driven and there's a big expectancy for the Springboks to win always, every single game."

Francois Louw can't quite believe it.

Francois Louw can't quite believe it. Photo: Supplied

On the flip side, Erasmus knows just what victory would do for his side's confidence.

"The moment you beat New Zealand in New Zealand you are back to where you want to be and you're planning is probably on track, you can tell yourself, 'We're really contenders at next year's World Cup'. You beat New Zealand in New Zealand, life is good."

However history suggests life won't be good for Erasmus and the Springboks on Saturday.

South Africa haven't won in New Zealand in almost a decade - and have never won at Westpac Stadium.