All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen has insisted that New Zealand Rugby’s finances are not limitless when it comes to keeping their best homegrown players playing Super Rugby.
Wealthy northern hemisphere clubs have tempted many All Blacks away from their Super Rugby franchises with the likes of Aaron Cruden (Montpellier), Lima Sopoaga (set to join Wasps at the end of the season), Tawera Kerr-Barlow (La Rochelle), Malakai Fekitoa (Toulon) and Charles Piutau (Bristol) having taken up big-money offers.
While the likes of Ma’a Nonu and Dan Carter left, they did so while they were past their best and most players who leave New Zealand are players unlikely to be mainstays in the All Blacks team. Even so, with the financial clout of clubs in northern hemisphere increasing, Hansen knows New Zealand are developing players for that market.
“We’re very fortunate to have a talented pool of people but the downside is that everyone wants to come in and buy them,” Hansen told the New Zealand Herald. “It’s the old adage, we want to develop one but we have to develop four — one for us and one for each of those other environments.
“It hasn’t got to the point where it’s disastrous — the contracting people are doing a magnificent job and the rugby union are supporting us magnificently, and there’s [still] a massive desire to keep pulling on the black jersey. While that’s there, we’ll keep coming out on top on the talent side.”
But although New Zealand have kept hold of their key players and remain the best in world rugby, Hansen is aware that the union does not have a bottomless pit, which they can draw from to keep the best talent in the country.
He added: “There has to be a reality at some point, what can we afford and what can’t we afford? We’re not a big country, how do we raise that money? Everyone thinks New Zealand Rugby has all this money — well it doesn’t [and] we’ve got to fight for every dollar we get and spend it wisely.”