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NZR GM backs Aussies to have ‘really strong’ Super Rugby Pacific season

By Finn Morton
(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

It’s been almost 10 years since Australian fans rejoiced in celebration as one of their beloved Super Rugby franchises won a trans-Tasman competition against their Kiwi foes.

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Playmaker Bernard Foley nailed a long-range penalty which saw the NSW Waratahs pip the Crusaders by just one point at Stadium Australia, Sydney.

But that feels like a long time ago. New Zealand franchises – notably the Crusaders who have won seven titles in as many years – have dominated the competition, and they’ve shown little to no signs of slowing down.

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The Chiefs hosted eventual champions the Crusaders in this year’s decider at FMG Stadium Waikato, and both New Zealand sides are among the favourites to take out the crown in 2024.

As for the Australian sides, they only won six games against Kiwi opposition this season, and the Wallabies went on to bow out of the Rugby World Cup in the pool stage.

But New Zealand Rugby’s general manager of professional rugby and performance, Chris Lendrum, is “confident” that the Australian sides will put up a fight next season.

“Clearly the World Cup was a low ebb for Australian rugby, but I don’t think it’s representative at all of the talent base that they have there, or indicative of how their teams will perform in Super Rugby Pacific,” Lendrum said, as reported by Stuff.

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“These things come in cycles.

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“There are clubs that have largely maintained their squad base from 2023, so they’ll be able to build with some cohesion, and then there’s a club like the Reds that have got an infusion of new talent out of a pretty strong academy system.

“We’re confident that the Australian teams will play a really strong part in the competition in 2024.”

All 12 Super Rugby Pacific clubs announced their squads for the upcoming campaign earlier this week, with the Brumbies appearing to be the team to beat in Australia.

The traditional Australian powerhouse has named a familiar squad for next season, but the departures of Wallabies Pete Samu and Nic White are major talking points.

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Meanwhile, across the ditch, some New Zealand franchises will sail through unchartered waters in 2024 as they usher in a new dawn without some of their icon players.

Brodie Retallick and Brad Weber have left the Chiefs, and All Blacks captain Sam Cane will miss the season after taking up a sabbatical in Japan.

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Hurricanes fans will also have to wait more than a year to see World Rugby Player of the Year Ardie Savea run out in the treasured yellow jersey in Super Rugby, with the backrower also heading abroad for a stint in Japan.

“It’s a big void. He’s the best player in the world. He’s a leader, he’s captained the All Blacks, and he’s an outstanding man,” Hurricanes coach Clark Laidlaw said about Savea’s absence in 2024.

“We’re going to miss him, but hopefully he’s not gone forever. He will be back and hopefully, he can enjoy his time in Japan with Dave Rennie and the team.”

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