30 Sep 2020

NZR steering clear of blame game

7:09 pm on 30 September 2020

The blame game continues in Super Rugby, with South Africa saying responsibility for its planned move to Europe lies squarely with New Zealand.

New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson.

New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson. Photo: Photosport

New Zealand Rugby, though, says South Africa's been plotting the move for some time.

The South African board has voted to pull its four remaining teams from Super Rugby and explore joining an expanded PRO 14 tournament in Europe.

It's a decision which hasn't come as a surprise to most.

What is raising some eyebrows, however, is where they're laying the blame.

Chief executive Jourie Roux said their hand has been forced by New Zealand Rugby choosing to proceed with a domestic or trans-Tasman competition.

NZR boss Mark Robinson wouldn't be drawn on whether the statement was fair, instead saying they were only focussed on moving forward.

"We're completely understanding, we're heartened by the language around the fact that they are committed to Sanzaar and the Rugby Championship, as are we.

"We've got a meeting later in the week where we'll discuss further where all the different national unions are getting to with different plans for the future."

Like most, Sam Cane wasn't surprised by the news.

But the All Blacks captain conceded it was disappointing many younger players wouldn't get to experience Super Rugby in the republic.

"I remember I was super excited to make my first trip to South Africa. Fly business class for the first time, all the little things that come with touring.

"On the flip side, if we look domestically at how successful Super Rugby Aotearoa was. If we can create something next year with Australian rugby, I'm pretty sure we'll still get an awesome product."

But things weren't all so awesome between the trans-Tasman neighbours, either.

NZR are unhappy with the schedule of the upcoming Rugby Championship being hosted in Australia, which is set to have the All Blacks quarantining over Christmas.

The Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship Trophy. ANZ Stadium Sydney. 2018.


Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan told Sky Sport's, the Breakdown, NZR's issue with the competition dates was not for Rugby Australia to solve.

"Sanzaar runs the joint venture, it's not Australia dominating.

"I've got to just make it clear, we were the ones that voted with New Zealand for a five week competition and we were originally defeated around this.the very beginning around this.

"It's a Sanzaar issue. South Africa and Argentina want a six week competition.

It was a debate which also led to McLennan to state the relationship between NZR and Rugby Australia was at its "lowest ebb".

Robinson didn't agree.

"I think it's a bit of bluster, to be honest.

"Clearly they've got a strategy and a narrative that they want to portray. Wwe don't operate like that but we respect the fact that they want to.

"We'll carry on engaging about the future opportunities with them and just have to largely get on with our own business and ignore some of the things that are being said like that."

The ongoing squabble came with the first Bledisloe Cup match of the year looming in Wellington next weekend.

But Wallabies assistant coach Scott Wisemantel said he was far more focussed on coaching rugby, than the relationship issues between the two national bodies.

"Let the administrators have a have a little tiff. Let them box on, it's their time in the sun.

"I've got no idea what's going on in that regard, don't really care.

"I've got a lot of really good mates who are Kiwis, most of them that I've spoke to say 'g'day, kia ora' and we talk footy."

At the moment, though, it was the off-field matters dominating the headlines.

And when it came to the Rugby Championship situation, Robinson was reiterating a five-week competition which had the All Blacks home for Christmas remained a bottom-line.

"The players, management and ourselves are all completely aligned. This has to be sorted out ASAP.

"We'll be working through that later this evening and tomorrow and try and bring it to a resolution as soon as possible."