All Blacks: Ian Foster admits ‘we miss South Africans’

Lawrence Nolan

All Blacks head coach Ian Foster has been missing the clashes between New Zealand franchises and South Africa’s in this year’s Super Rugby tournament.

Speaking on New Zealand’s weekly rugby TV show The Breakdown, Foster said he was finding it difficult to re-create the clash of styles and educating effect that clash used to have.

How to grow experience

“In an ideal world, I loved having South Africa in the competition,” he said.

“They brought a different style, and now we’ve just got to find other ways to grow our experience of playing them.”

New Zealand teams have continued to dominate, by and large, their Australian counterparts as the business end of the new tournament approaches, albeit in a heavily Covid-disrupted season.

Foster’s hope is that the element of competition that has so long been the driving force behind Super Rugby and New Zealand’s strength at learning and developing can continue, even in a more fragmented environment than before.

“At the end of the day, it’s been well-documented why South Africa aren’t in it at the moment,” Foster continued.

“The travel would have been impossible the last two or three years, and before that, a lot of the South African top players were leaving and playing in Europe, which sort of weakened their teams.

“It’s changed around a lot, Super Rugby, over many, many years. When rugby went professional and it [Super Rugby] started, everyone thought it’d be the downfall of New Zealand rugby because we wouldn’t be able to deal in the professional era.

“But we’ve shown that we’ve got some great franchises there at the moment, all doing a lot of work in terms of the development, linking with the provincial unions, and the system.

“Whilst we critique it hard, we talk about its weaknesses, it’s also got a massive degree of strength to it, and it has helped support an All Black team that has consistently been able to perform at the top echelon.

“We just want to keep having a tough, even competition and, where possible, have as many games against other countries’ players as well.”

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