Why stars won’t play Super Rugby finals despite Japanese returns

Publish Date
Tuesday, 14 May 2024, 3:00PM

By Alex Powell

Super Rugby fans wanting to see some of New Zealand’s best take the field in Aotearoa this season will have to wait, with All Blacks returning from Japan not eligible to turn out for their respective sides.

At present, the trio of Ardie Savea, Beauden Barrett and Sam Cane are currently on sabbatical from Super Rugby Pacific, and have spent 2024 playing in Japan’s Rugby League One.

As Rugby League One approaches its conclusion, now into the semi-final stage, Savea and Barrett are free of their commitments, after their respective Kobelco Steelers and Toyota Verblitz were eliminated.

Despite not having played since January with a reported back injury, Cane’s commitments to Tokyo Sungoliath are ongoing, with his side reaching the semi-finals.

But despite Super Rugby’s move to be more “fan-centric”, Savea and Barrett will likely not return for the Hurricanes and Blues respectively, due to competition regulations.

Speaking to Newstalk ZB’s Rugby Direct Podcast, New Zealand Rugby’s head of professional rugby Chris Lendrum explained the process for players to be able to turn out in Super Rugby after stints abroad.

“You’re unlikely to see any of them in Super Rugby,” Lendrum said. “The competition rules are that anyone playing offshore as of April 1 in a Super competition year can’t play in the finals.

“The very most you would see is someone coming back in as an emergency replacement for a few games to fill a gap.

“Even then, they need dispensation from the competition. Obviously, it’s not impossible, but it’s not that likely.”

With Barrett, Savea, and Cane contracted to the Blues, Hurricanes, and Chiefs respectively, all three would likely be in the mix to play in Super Rugby’s finals, with their teams sitting in first, second, and fourth positions on the ladder with four rounds to play.

This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission

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