The New Zealand Herald

New teams cause concern for Coventry

- Christophe­r Reive

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.

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