Ian Foster has admitted that, in his ideal world, South Africa’s four main franchises would still be competing with New Zealand teams in Super Rugby.
Foster made the revelation in an interview with ‘The Breakdown’ when he was asked whether the New Zealand teams are missing their South African rivals, who last year joined Europe’s Vodacom United Rugby Championship.
The Vodacom Bulls, Sharks, Lions and Stormers left Super Rugby during the Covid-19 pandemic two years ago, initially playing domestically before the opportunity came to join an expanded PRO14, which was rebranded as the Vodacom United Rugby Championship.
At the time, SA Rugby blamed New Zealand for South Africa’s exit from Super Rugby, accusing them of a “unilateral” decision to continue Super Rugby domestically as Super Rugby Aotearoa. Rugby Australia followed New Zealand’s example, before the two unions combined to create Super Rugby Trans-Tasman last year, which has now evolved into Super Rugby Pacific this year.
After a shaky start to the season, three of South Africa’s URC teams are currently in contention for the playoffs, with the Stormers looking likely to finish in the top four.
Meanwhile, all but one of the New Zealand teams are in the top eight of Super Rugby and in the weekend’s first set of Trans-Tasman fixtures, it was only the Highlanders who did not win against Australian opposition.
“I could say something and it’ll probably give a few headlines, but, at the end of the day, it’s been well documented why South Africa aren’t in it at the moment,” Foster told the New Zealand rugby chat show.
“The travel would have been impossible the last two or three years, and before that, a lot of the South African top players were leaving and playing in Europe, which sort of weakened their teams.
“In an ideal world, I loved having South Africa in the competition. They brought a different style, and now we’ve just got to find other ways to grow our experience of playing them.
“It’s changed around a lot, Super Rugby, over many, many years. When rugby went professional and it [Super Rugby] started, everyone thought it’d be the downfall of New Zealand rugby because we wouldn’t be able to deal in the professional era.
“But we’ve shown that we’ve got some great franchises there at the moment, all doing a lot of work in terms of the development, linking with the provincial unions, and the system.
“Whilst we critique it hard, we talk about its weaknesses, it’s also got a massive degree of strength to it, and it has helped support an All Black team that has consistently been able to perform at the top echelon.
“We just want to keep having a tough, even competition and, where possible, have as many games against other countries’ players as well.”
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