The Southland Times
Deal ‘must be best for players and future’
Senior All Black and players’ association board member Aaron Smith has rejected claims players are ‘‘just thinking of ourselves’’ in the standoff with New Zealand Rugby over the proposed $465 million Silver Lake deal.
The future of the Silver Lake deal depends on the blessing of New Zealand’s players, who have voiced their concerns about elements of the deal through NZRPA CEO Rob Nichol.
That has led to mediation between the two parties as they try to find some common ground on areas such as the potential risks involved in the investment.
The provincial unions and the community game desperately need an injection of cash, but Smith said the players were simply asking to be in full possession of all the facts before giving the deal the green light.
‘‘There’s a lot of info, there’s a lot of what-ifs and there are lot of things being thrown around,’’ Smith said yesterday.
‘‘We’re just trying to make sure we’re aligned about what we need to know and we’re clear about that, and then we try and make a decision that’s best for the players and the future.
‘‘I think that’s something that’s getting misconstrued, and that we might be just thinking our ourselves, which is false.’’
The detail in a deal such as a Silver Lake investment would be enormous, and it appears that the NZRPA’s willingness to take what looks like a hard negotiating line is, in part, due to its determination to get everything nailed down before a final signoff.
Josh Ioane has forced his way back into the Highlanders’ starting XV on the back of an outstanding 30 minutes in the loss to the Chiefs last Saturday.
Head coach Tony Brown has handed Ioane the No 15 jersey in one of several changes to the 23-man squad following a disappointing performance in Dunedin. However, the Highlanders’ injury curse has struck yet again, with the impressive Connor Garden-Bachop ruled out for the rest of the season with a broken wrist.
Garden-Bachop picked up the injury against the Chiefs, bringing a disappointing end to the wing/fullback’s strong campaign.
The Highlanders now have Folau Fakatava, Vili Koroi (Sevens), Freedom Vahaakolo, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Fetuli Paea, Garden-Bachop and Solomon Alaimalo (personal reasons) missing from their backline.
‘‘That’s rugby sometimes,’’ Brown said yesterday. ‘‘Sometimes you get lucky and you get through a campaign with hardly any injuries and sometimes you get a dozen.
‘‘We’ve had season-ending injuries that have put us under real pressure but there are plenty of guys willing to step up.
‘‘We’ve brought some new guys in and they’ve added to the environment. In the Australian part of the competition they might get a run.’’
Otago midfielder Josh Timu and Southland utility Josh Moorby come into that category, but in the short term Ioane will be needed against a big Blues side that is targeting a place in the Super Rugby Aotearoa final.
In a messy, stop-start game in Dunedin, Ioane was close to the best player on the paddock when he was introduced in the second half, making line breaks, setting up his outsides, scoring a try and kicking his goals.
It was the perfect response after being stood down the previous week for disciplinary reasons, and Brown will be looking for more of the same after chastising his own players for their performance in the 26-23 golden-point defeat.
‘‘We just didn’t quite play at the right intensity, we were soft in a few areas of the game, we just didn’t quite play as well as we did last week [against the Crusaders],’’ Brown said after the Chiefs game.
Lock Pari Pari Parkinson will also miss the game after injuring an ankle against the Chiefs.
Manaaki Selby-Rickit, Marino Mikaele-Tu’u and Michael Collins have all been recalled to the 23-man squad and will start on the bench, where Brown has again opted for a 6-2 split against the big Blues pack.
The Highlanders are attempting to end a three-game losing streak at home following losses to the Crusaders, Hurricanes and Chiefs.
Assistant coach Clarke Dermody acknowledged on Monday that the Highlanders had failed to deliver in front of their own fans in 2021, and the Blues game on Friday will be their last opportunity against Kiwi opposition before scheduled games against the Reds and the Waratahs in the trans-Tasman competition.