New Zealand Rugby has issued a press release in response to the statement made by the South Africa Rugby Union overnight that outlined their intention to exit Super Rugby.

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The SARU confirmed that it would explore options to move its four current Super Rugby franchises – the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers – into the PRO14 in place of the two incumbent South African sides, the Cheetahs and Southern Kings.

SARU chief executive Jurie Roux suggested his union wouldn’t have taken such measures were it not for NZR’s publicly-stated desire for a domestic, trans-Tasman or Pacific competition in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The Breakdown | Episode 36

As such, he said that it was impossible for the 14-team Super Rugby competition – which saw the expulsion of the Sunwolves from the tournament – that participating partners had agreed on for the next five years to go forth as planned.

“Our members are excited about the prospect of closer alignment with PRO Rugby Championship and seeking a northern hemisphere future, but we would not have been taking this decision but for actions elsewhere,” Roux said.

In a press release issued on Wednesday, NZR chief executive Mark Robinson has responded to those claims and South Africa’s imminent departure from Super Rugby as we know it.

The statement read that it was “no surprise” that South Africa intended to leave for Europe given they had previously spoken of their eagerness to move into the Northern Hemisphere.

“SARU has signalled for some time now they were looking at aligning with the Northern Hemisphere season,” Robinson said, before acknowledging South Africa’s commitment to stay onboard with SANZAAR at international level.

“All of the SANZAAR partners had agreed to look at more domestically related competitions in 2020 and 2021. During times like these change is inevitable and we need to be willing to adapt quickly.

“We were thrilled with how Super Rugby Aotearoa was received this year and are excited about what is shaping up for 2021. We’re also pleased to hear confirmation of South Africa’s ongoing commitment to remain a key partner in SANZAAR, which strongly aligns with NZR’s position.

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“We look forward to seeing the Springboks in action during the upcoming Rugby Championship in Australia.”

Having provided three Super Rugby champions in the form of the Bulls (2007, 2009-10), the loss of South Africa will be keenly felt at club level as NZR and Rugby Australia work towards a new competition with more of a local focus.

Robinson mentioned his excitement for a reboot of the highly-successful Super Rugby Aotearoa in 2021, which will, contractually, be considered a one-off due to the ongoing coronavirus disruptions, and may feature a Pasifika team based out of South Auckland.

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However, RA chairman Hamish McLennan told The Breakdown on Tuesday that he is backing a trans-Tasman Super Rugby competition for next year.

“I would like a trans-Tasman competition. I think COVID is throwing up a whole lot of issues and I’m not sure where that’s going to land by ultimately we’ve got a really powerful Anzac block that we should be leveraging and working together,” McLennan said.

“I think we’re better players when we play against you guys, and it will only get better over time.

“We’ve got a good crop of young guys coming through and I think the competition will improve, and we’ve got to work together to leverage our strength together on the global stage.”

Read New Zealand Rugby’s full statement below:

New Zealand Rugby (NZR) has acknowledged the South African Rugby Union (SARU) statement to explore entering their existing Super Rugby teams in the PRO Rugby competition in Europe.

NZR Chief Executive Mark Robinson said South Africa’s position was no surprise.

“SARU has signalled for some time now they were looking at aligning with the Northern Hemisphere season. All of the SANZAAR partners had agreed to look at more domestically related competitions in 2020 and 2021. During times like these change is inevitable and we need to be willing to adapt quickly. 

“We were thrilled with how Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa was received this year and are excited about what is shaping up for 2021. We’re also pleased to hear confirmation of South Africa’s ongoing commitment to remain a key partner in SANZAAR, which strongly aligns with NZR’s position.

“We look forward to seeing the Springboks in action during the upcoming Rugby Championship in Australia.”

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