• ‘Playing in South Africa a great challenge’

    All Blacks stars Sam Cane and Aaron Smith agree it will be a ‘shame’ to no longer play against South African teams in Vodacom Super Rugby.

    In a confirmed shake-up to the Sanzaar alliance, SA Rugby will officially move to enter the four existing Super Rugby side in an expanded PRO Rugby competition.

    Although there is still talk that the Cheetahs could enter a proposed ‘Super Series’ that involves New Zealand and Australian teams, it is the end of Super Rugby as we know it.

    ALSO READ: Why SA Rugby is seeking northern hemisphere future

    ‘When you get lucky enough to play international rugby, we’ll still have that awesome challenge of going over there. For me, I don’t think there’s much bigger challenge than playing a South African team in front of a packed-out South African crowd,’ Cane commented.

    The All Blacks skipper added: ‘Put your Super Rugby hat on, it’s a bit of a shame that a lot of those young guys won’t get to experience that. I remember, [I was] super excited to make my first trip to South Africa, flying business class for the first time, all the little things that come with touring.

    ‘But … slightly less travel is a bonus for guys that have done a fair bit of travel over the years. The first four or five years it’s super exciting, then the next four or five it’s a little bit like “Oh, we’re going back there again”.’

    Smith shared similar sentiments.

    ‘I’ve always enjoyed my times in South Africa, but, not to be ungrateful, to go there sort of 20 times, you kind of lose that. That 14-hour flight, the long flight back.

    ‘But at a Test level, you hope that you don’t lose that. Because they’re the best games, they’re the ones you remember. I remember 2013 playing at Ellis Park – the hardest game I’ve ever played. You remember playing in Cape Town, it was a 48-minute first half. The games you play there are just slog fests, and the best sort of atmosphere.’

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    Craig Lewis