The New Zealand Herald
New teams cause concern for Coventry
Blues assistant coach Tom Coventry has welcomed the addition of two new teams to Super Rugby but admits their introduction is likely to dilute the talent pool.
New Zealand Rugby yesterday announced Moana Pasifika and the Fijian Drua have been granted conditional licences to join a planned new professional competition.
The teams would be added to a competition including the five New Zealand franchises as well as the existing five Super Rugby Australia teams beginning in 2022, conditional on their final business plans and Rugby Australia’s support.
Speaking on the new additions, Coventry said it was good to see the competition continuing to evolve.
However, he had some concerns over competitiveness.
“We’ve just got to make sure it works for our game — that it’s done with lots of consideration around the challenges, where the teams are based, where the players are coming from, and making sure the teams are competitive in this competition.
“We know how competitive it is, and we certainly don’t want that competition to be lessened by teams that are under-strength. I know they have a bit of work to do make sure it all fits together but the concept is really, really good.”
Historically, new additions to the Super Rugby arena have struggled. With the exception of the Jaguares, who made the playoffs in two of their four full seasons in the competition, the majority have taken some time to find their footing.
With the licences conditionally granted, the two groups can now move forward with their recruitment of players and coaching staff, and Coventry said he expected that would likely lead to some adverse impacts for the existing teams.
“I’ve got no doubt it’s going to really affect our depth,” he said.
“We’re always looking to the provinces to make sure we’ve got guys in here that can step up in time. If we’re losing those sorts of players to opposition teams in Super Rugby, it’s going to dilute the competition for sure.
“But I suppose if you look at New Zealand that the sort of players we do turn out, and how young we’re prepared to play players, it’s one of our strengths.
“We’re probably the envy of the world, our melting pot of players is pretty strong, so it’ll certainly dilute it, but it will give other guys opportunities and we’re just going to have to be a bit more open minded about where our players are coming from and making sure our development programmes are working really strongly so those players, when they do get an opportunity, can step up.”
The announcement comes with the Super Rugby Aotearoa in its final weeks, with the Blues set to meet the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday to kick off the eighth round of the competition.
Both sides remain in the hunt for a spot in the final. However, the Highlanders have played one more game than the Blues and Chiefs and need wins in their final two matches of the round robin to remain in with a chance.
The Blues have named a relatively unchanged team, with Johnathan Ruru moving into the starting No 9 jersey in place of Sam Nock, while Finlay Christie takes the reserve halfback spot and Bryce Heem replaces AJ Lam on the bench.
For the Highlanders, there is plenty of movement with Josh Ioane, Billy Harmon, Josh Dickson, Siate Tokolahi and Ayden Johnstone all moving into the starting side.