All Blacks and Highlanders scrumhalf Aaron Smith believes the ‘intensity’ of Super Rugby Aotearoa is to blame for the high injury toll among the five New Zealand franchise squads.
Since the Covid-19 outbreak, the regular Super Rugby tournament has been done away with permanently as SA Rugby withdrew its four teams in favour of a switch to Europe. In its place, New Zealand has formed the local Super Rugby Aotearoa competition while Australia started Super Rugby AU.
But the second season of Aotearoa has been blighted by a high number of injuries to key players, including several leading All Blacks.
The Highlanders have lost six players to season-ending injuries this year, with utility back Connor Garden-Bachop the latest after suffering a broken wrist playing against the Chiefs this past weekend.
The Crusaders have lost centre Jack Goodhue for the year and prop Joe Moody for an unspecified period, the Chiefs are without captain Same Cane long term because of a shoulder injury, the Highlanders are without loose forward Liam Squire for the remainder of the season, while Hurricanes captain Ardie Savea is out for up to eight weeks with a knee injury – all adding to the growing number of All Blacks casualties ahead of the Test season.
With all these injuries taking its toll, Smith has highlighted the intensity of the local competition where the five New Zealand sides compete among themselves. The 32-year-old also called for a more ‘balanced’ Super Rugby competition in 2022 instead of the ‘brutal’ Super Rugby Aotearoa.
‘The games are brilliant, it’s just around byes and whether there is more chance of fitting that in,’ Smith said.
‘The way the comp is looking in the future with other teams, it will give us that great balance of what Super Rugby use to be.’
‘Last year we had a lot of chat around player welfare, making sure the byes were set up well and I feel this year they’ve just sort of flunked it and gone just go out there and do it.’
Smith says recent season-ending injuries have highlighted the issue.
‘That’s rugby and it can just happen, but the brutality, the intensity of the games and how much is on the line now for playoff spots, it’s brutal.
‘When you get further into a season the ability to get injured from wear and tear heightens.’
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