NZ relieved at settlement of Super rugby split

By Greg Stutchbury

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) chief executive Steve Tew was a relieved man after a new Super rugby agreement was reached in Dublin.

The southern hemisphere's annual regional competition was in danger of being scrapped after 2010 following a public spat between the three parties that make up SANZAR, with Australia and New Zealand developing a contingency plan without South Africa.

"We're very pleased. We needed some certainty. We needed to be able to get some work done on the details," Tew said from London during a conference call.

"Everyone has had to make some compromises.

"It would be fair to say that we are all satisfied. No one is overjoyed or bitterly disappointed, which when you're trying to get three parties to agree to something as complicated as this then it's probably about the right result."

Prior to the last-gasp meeting, the major issue was the timing of the competition, with South Africa refusing to move from the current early February start in order to protect their domestic Currie Cup competition later in the year.

The Australasians, however, wanted the competition to begin in March allowing their cricket seasons to end and giving the test players a longer break from end-of-year tours to Europe.

Tew said he was unable to give any details on the competition as all three had agreed to report back to their respective boards first, though he said all of the major issues had been resolved.

Plans should be made public within the next week, he said, though he did hint a 15th team would be added for 2011.

The Australasians had said last week they had completed a contingency plan for a trans-Tasman competition, which could have expanded into Japan and the Pacific Islands, if a new SANZAR agreement had not been reached.

"The work we have done (on an Asia-Pacific competition) will go into a drawer and if we need to pull it out, we will," Tew said.

SANZAR had until June 30 to present broadcasters with a proposal for a new competition and while Tew said they may have been able to get an extension, they were not keen to do so.

"I'm sure they would have done if we had have asked but we were reluctant to test that," Tew said.

"They have 60 days to respond. Every month that puts it back is another three months."

(Editing by Pritha Sarkar;

Article Published: 14/05/2009