The central difference

Thu, 31 Oct 2013 23:09
Large grant fox steve hansen630

All Black selector Grant Fox believes that player welfare is about far more than just a central contracting system.

All Black selector Grant Fox believes that player welfare is about far more than just a central contracting system.

In the two years since they lifted the World Cup the All Blacks have lost just one game, and they are determined to manage their top players as carefully as possible over the next two years in order to ensure that they are just as strong when the time comes to defend their title.

While the Springboks were roughing each other up in the knock-out stage of the Currie Cup, the frontline All Blacks were watching the climax of the NPC from their couches, getting some rest ahead of their tour.

This illustrates one of the key differences in the way the professional game is run in the two top countries on the IRB rankings, as South Africa traded off the possibility of more top players breaking down for the chance to field the strongest possible teams.

The fact that players are contracted to the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) instead of the individual unions means that their workload can be managed more effectively, but Fox believes that the spirit of co-operation in New Zealand rugby also plays a major role.

Fox told this website in an interview that it works for both sides as the franchises also need the players to be in top condition.

"Player welfare for our frontline players who play a lot of rugby is something that our guys look at very carefully.

"We get a lot of co-operation from our Super Rugby coaches as well. They understand player welfare issues, it helps them as well, it is not just about the All Blacks, it works both ways.

"Both the All Blacks and the franchises get the benefit out of that if it is managed carefully," he said.

Fox explained that although central contracting gives the NZRU the power to make those decisions, it also helps that everyone involved has something invested in keeping the players fresh.

"Maybe central contracting does help that, but so does a shared desire that if you want the best out of your athletes so that they can peak perform more often then you need to managed them carefully.

"That is just part of player workload, it would have been easy to let them play and I am sure they would have wanted to do that, but in their overall long-term best interests a weekend off before they go on a big tour was the right thing to do," he said.

For the NZRU the decision to rest their best players ahead of a taxing tour at the end of the year was a no-brainer, SARU on the other hand do not have the ability to make such decisions.

South Africa and New Zealand are two very different countries with different rugby landscapes, but that does not mean that SARU should not reflect on what makes New Zealand rugby successful.

By Michael de Vries