Crusaders Set To Opt Out Fiji
Christchurch:Don’t expect the Crusaders to host a game in Fiji next year.
Exactly where the Super Rugby champions will play their matches in 2018 has yet to be made public, although chief executive Hamish Riach has already declared the competition schedule, released by Sanzaar last week, isn’t conducive to his club transferring a fixture to Suva.
When the Chiefs transferred their “home” games against the Crusaders to Suva for the last two years, they did so in the knowledge that the Fijian government would invest around $1.6 million. Both teams were paid a fee, with the Chiefs, having taken the game away from Hamilton, getting a bigger slice which was understood to be worth more than what they would earn from playing in front of a sold-out FMG Stadium. The Chiefs have confirmed they won’t return to Suva. Riach doesn’t seem keen on the concept, either.
“We don’t think there is an opportunity for us in 2018,” Riach said. “The way the draw is, the opportunity to do something like that is very limited - so not likely.
“And remember that taking the game away requires the promoters to give us that opportunity as well. It is not something we are completely in the driver’s seat for.” With the competition format reduced to 15 teams following the dumping of the Force, Cheetahs and Kings, each team will play 16 matches split on a home and away basis.
The vagaries of the draw means the Crusaders will not play the Reds or the Sharks.
Given coach Scott Robertson is likely to have around 12 All Blacks in his squad, possibly more, travelling to Fiji may not appeal for those facing a busy travel schedule for test matches later in the season.
This scenario was played out in 2015 when star five-eighth Dan Carter said he disagreed with Crusaders’ board’s plan to shift a game against the Hurricanes to Suva. In the end it was played in Nelson.
None of the New Zealand teams have revealed what venues they will use in 2018.
The Crusaders’ charge to their first title win since 2008 should also add some zing to the balance sheet. Riach didn’t talk numbers, but given his organisation was awarded around $137,000 appearance fee by the Lions, as required under Sanzaar rules, for playing the final in Johannesburg the digits in black ink should be reasonable.
Bryn Hall with fans after round 13 Super Rugby match between the Crusaders-Chiefs at the ANZ Stadium, Suva on May 19, 2017