All Blacks and Highlanders scrumhalf Aaron Smith believes the old Super Rugby format including South African teams was superior to the current Aotearoa format.
Smith is one of the first New Zealand players to open up about the loss of the South African teams after New Zealand Rugby opted to form their own competition last year.
The old competition – which featured 16 teams, including the Jaguares from Argentina and Sunwolves from Japan – was dissolved amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The four main South African teams – the Lions, Sharks, Bulls and Stormers – have headed north and will be taking part in an expanded PRO16 competition, following the PRO14 Rainbow Cup.
During a fan Q&A on Twitter, Smith was asked which competition he preferred – Super Rugby or Super Rugby Aotearoa.
‘The old format is better,’ Smith wrote back. ‘I miss touring. It was the times you really got tight as a team. Plus not much fun bashing your mates up every week.’
The latter parts of Smith’s words are also something of a warning to New Zealand Rugby, as the incredibly high rate of the Aotearoa derbies has had New Zealand teams sustaining a high number of injuries this year.
Smith opened up further on this point on New Zealand radio in an interview with host Martin Devlin.
‘I think if you look back over time, [it] is not a coincidence,’ Smith said. ‘Back-to-back derbies, it’s definitely got to have an impact.
‘People don’t get how much harder you go against your best mate. It’s real. It’s not like saying we don’t respect the South Africans, Aussies, Jaguares, Japanese, but when you play your mate every week, the collisions, the kilometres we run, it all adds up.’
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