NZ Rugby World
CROSS BORDER FLAVOUR IS VITAL
It is kind of funny that having lamented for years the weakness of some of the foreign teams, everyone missed them when they weren't there.
More specifically, the players at least, missed the challenge of playing against the best South African and Australian teams and while a format that includes the former may be difficult to impossible to create next year, there is strong support to ensure it certainly includes the latter.
The players want to test themselves against non-Kiwi opposition. It is vital on many levels: starting with the need to be exposed to different styles, skills and ways of playing.
There is also the travel factor to consider – the need for emerging players especially to be tested in hostile environments. To learn the art of getting in a plane and preparing to play in a new venue.
Highlanders captain Ash Dixon put it in perspective when he told Gold AM's Country Sport Breakfast: “I'd love to see the Africans still there. I think it's a huge part of the rivalry between New Zealand and South Africa.
“Especially as a young fella who has toured there…it's a great way to get a lot of gratitude…the way they live their lives and the way we do is completely different.
“Obviously it is not an easy place to win – I'd love to see the Africans still there. Super Rugby Aotearoa is pretty hard…if we did have semis and finals it would be interesting to see who is left to play. I know after our game we've got a few banged up bodies, this bye week has come at a good time for us.
“If the Africans don't play, hopefully we can chuck someone in who is a similar beast.”