New All Blacks boss Ian Foster has stressed the importance of keeping South Africa in the Rugby Championship after an English newspaper report emerged that the Springboks were set to join an extended Six Nations competition following the 2023 World Cup.

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The Daily Mail reported over the weekend that secret talks have taken place which would see the reigning world champions drop out of the Southern Hemisphere’s premier international tournament to join the European competition.

Such a move would leave the All Blacks, Wallabies and Argentina without regular game time against the four-time winners of the Rugby Championship.

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Speaking to Newstalk ZB, Foster questioned the legitimacy of the report, before going to endorse both South African rugby and the Springboks’ relationship with the All Blacks.

“My initial reaction was thank goodness it was written in an English newspaper because I don’t believe most of that stuff,” he said.

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“There’s been a little bit of smoke around this for a while – the reality is our board has to make sure it has a strong relationship with South Africa and is talking, which I know they have been.”

The 54-year-old, who succeeded Steve Hansen as All Blacks head coach following New Zealand’s semi-final exit at last year’s World Cup, said that a year where his side didn’t play against the Springboks was unfathomable.

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“If you take the politics out of it I can’t imagine an All Black year not playing the South Africans. If you just think about it, historically they are our greatest foe.

“We need them in our competition, they are a fantastic group of people, fantastic country, and we need them to play here. We know they are committed to do that for the next cycle, we’ve just got to make sure we’ve got a working relationship with them and deal with things.”

His comments come after New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson told Radio Sport yesterday that South Africa couldn’t leave the Rugby Championship until the end of SANZAAR’s current broadcast cycle, which ends in 2025.

“Like us, they’ve signed agreements with their broadcasters through 2025 to be involved with SANZAAR,” he said.

“And as recently as this week we were on calls talking about the future of our competitions at Super [Rugby] level and international level.

“They are people that we trust, they are very honest and they’ve been great partners over the last 25 years. We would like to think that we would be privy to those sorts of comments or conversations if they had been had.”

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