The NZRPA, Rob Nichol is not happy with the way that NZ Rugby decision to go for a Pasifika involvement in Super Rugby for 2021. This has let to relationships with South Africa and Australia deteriorated to a points which upset Nichol.
SANZAAR is not at the best place at the moment with the Springboks withdrawal from the Rugby Championship and SARU busy with talks to take their top franchise from Super Rugby to the PRO14.
There is a feeling that South Africa has been forced down this road with New Zealand decision to localise the franchise competition during this pandemic.
It is not that they were building bridges with Australia either. They first told Australia that only two teams will be in this new Tasman Super Rugby and then started a war of words which did not go down well with old payers and their administrators.
Just this week Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McClennan repeated his assertion in an interview with Stuff that the relationship with NZ Rugby was at its “lowest ebb”, a claim vociferously denied by his Kiwi counterpart Brent Impey as the pair continue to fail to even agree to disagree.
NZ Rugby also send a clear message again that they intend to have another Super rugby Aotearoa in 2021 and that they are looking to bring in three new teams from Asia-Pacific regions for the following season.
Nichol told Stuff he was deeply concerned about the message New Zealand Rugby continues to send out to Sanzaar partners as they look to establish a path out of the most challenging period the professional game has faced.
He warned the fractured nature of the southern hemisphere alliance must be repaired if the game in this part of the world is to survive the setbacks caused by the global pandemic.
Nichol said the NZRPA wanted to send a message of support to South African rugby.
“The first message to South Africa is if they’re getting mixed messages from other people, the players of New Zealand respect you and love you for being part of our competitions,” said Nichol in an interview before the Rugby Championship decision.
“The other part is if New Zealand has done anything that made you feel like you wanted to turn away, 100 per cent that is not the players. We don’t want you to go. We want you to stay and if there’s a way to keep you, we want to see it happen.
“But we’re also realistic. Covid has had a devastating impact on all sorts of stuff, and we recognise the situation you’re in, and we’re feeling for you.
“You’re in survival mode. We understand it’s natural to look to the north and frankly we can understand why you’re choosing to go there. Despite what’s been said publicly, we think you’ve actually not got much choice, and we empathise.”
And Nichol’s final point to the South African’s was perhaps his most important.
“Regardless of what you do we want a stronger relationship moving forward. Not the same one, not a fractured one … we want a stronger one. Whether that’s based around the Rugby Championship or a global competition or the fact we still have an alliance through Sanzaar, we want to keep it.”
Nichol’s concern stretched beyond just the South African alliance and said the players’ view was very much aligned with a strength in numbers perspective.
“We think with the pandemic, the way things are going, we’re actually stronger together. Our view is now is the time to strengthen the Sanzaar alliance; now is the time to work closer with Australia, Argentina and South Africa and to embrace the island nations.
“We don’t think the approach of New Zealand feeling they have to be the one that controls and owns and dictates in a public sense is the way to go,” he added. “We believe the starting point and only narrative is we are going to work with Australia and the Pacific Island nations to come up with the best option moving forward.
But, again, Nichol urged perspective.
“New South Wales is bigger than the whole of New Zealand, and they have one team, we have five. Australia is five times our size, and they bring assets and legacy to the table.
“But that’s not the starting point, and its time someone called it out.”
If there was ever a wake-up call this is it. It is quite unprecedented for the CEO of NZ's player association to come out publicly criticizing the union.
I'd hate to see a total break down of SANZAAR relations.
Change is unavoidable but if there is something left to save, save it https://t.co/b7FIRleKkR
— Morne (@Mud_n_Guts) October 16, 2020