Time is almost up for Super Rugby Aupiki this season and those involved in the competition want there to be more when it returns in 2024, with a coach warning this year has been ‘tougher’ than the last year, when teams were forced into a Covid-19 bubble.
Over the next six days rugby will be the center of attention, first as the semi-finals take place at Auckland’s North Harbor Stadium on Sunday and then as the winners prepare to face off at FMG Stadium Waikato in Hamilton next Saturday.
It’s Matatū v Blues first this weekend – a rematch of a game that was decided by two runs in the first round – followed by Chiefs Manawa v Hurricanes Poua – a game the Waikato side won 53 -21 three weeks ago.
The unbeaten Chiefs have led the way this season and are the favorites to claim the booty for the second straight year, but manager Crystal Kaua believes the current part-time setup cannot continue if and when the competition expands . further away.
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“I don’t think you could ask people to do this format – part-time, Thursday to Sunday – for 10 or 12 weeks from a wellness perspective.
“There must be a full-time rugby period and a full-time pre-season.
“The toll that the weeks we’re currently living in is creating – I would say getting into the bubble last year was easier. We all thought it was really hard, then we did this one and this one is actually harder.
“We couldn’t keep this format for 12 weeks. I don’t see that producing what we need. I think it has to go full-time for a while and there has to be a full-time pre-season.
“I would really advocate and push that for our staff, for our players, for the game.”
The majority of Aupiki players congregate Thursday through Sunday and then work other jobs Monday through Wednesday, with the main exceptions being Black Ferns contracts.
Chiefs flanker Tynealle Fitzgerald said she had to ask for Mondays off from her job as a tradie for Downer for the past few weeks. “My boss is probably sick of me, because every Monday I’m like, oh, I’m not going to come just because I’m so fucked up from the weekend, but they’ve been really good about it.”
His Blues counterpart Liana Mikaele-Tu’u, a member of the Black Ferns Rugby World Cup squad last year, said players who had other jobs in the first half of the week were the “true champions” of his team – and their rivals across the country.
“They are going to work Monday to Wednesday and they basically have to catch up and come in and do their best for our team.
“I think they are the real champions of our team and I will give them all the credit because they have the best attitudes. They all want to learn. They all want to play.
“I think they’re just holding on to the faith that one day it will be a full-time thing.”
For her part, Fitzgerald says it’s hard to come home after four days of camp with the Manawa Chiefs and then return to a job where she works mostly alone: ”Is it like everyone’s gone? »
“I would absolutely love to be paid to play rugby all the time,” she added. “It would be amazing. I would be thrilled.
Fitzgerald impressed the Chiefs’ loose forwards and she said there was no complacency for the favorites ahead of Sunday’s clash with the Hurricanes.
“Finals football is a whole different ball game. They’re going to come out whistling and we just have to come out whistling too.
“The best team is going to win and you never know what’s going to happen.”
NZ Rugby has said it will consider what the next steps will be for Super Rugby Aupiki at the end of the current season, with Rugby Australia keen to run a cross-Tasman competition from next year.
Super Rugby Aupiki – semi-finals
The two at Auckland’s North Harbor Stadium on Sunday
3:15 p.m.: Matatu against the Blues
6:05 p.m.: Chiefs Manawa vs. Hurricanes Poua
The winners will meet in the final at FMG Stadium Waikato in Hamilton at 2:05 p.m. next Saturday