South Africa chief denies SANZAAR rift – “We fight like hell in the boardroom”

The relationship between SANZAAR’s four member nations remains strong despite the recent rescheduling controversy that put the future of the 2021 Rugby Championship in doubt.

That’s according to South AfricaRugby president Mark Alexander, who has denied suggestions of a rift between the unions following New Zealand ’s decision to withdraw from the original schedule.

The All Blacks announced they would not travel to Perth as planned amid a rise in Covid-19 cases in both New Zealand and Australia, postponing their Bledisloe Cup clash with the Wallabies on August 28.

New Zealand Rugby also announced the country would not host two games against South Africa as scheduled later in the tournament, citing uncertainty over when their players could return home.

SANZAAR has since rejigged the schedule so that the rearranged Round 2 clash between New Zealand and Australia will take place at the Optus Stadium in Perth on Sunday, September 5.

Those two teams will then continue on to join South Africa and Argentina in Queensland, where the last four rounds of the 2021 Rugby Championship will be completed.

Alexander—who has served as SA Rugby president since 2016—insisted the debacle has not driven a wedge between SANZAAR’s members, though they do still “fight like hell” on occasion.

"We don't take every argument as a rift. We have bigger battles that we fight in the boardroom,” he said.

"We have local arguments here, but that doesn't mean we're fighting each other. It's like when we have a meeting. We fight like hell in the boardroom, but when the door is open, the fight is over.

"I don't think we should read too much into these things, and the media plays things up and blow things out of proportion.

"There isn't a fight within the SANZAAR structures.”

Australia and New Zealand enjoy a competitive relationship at the best of times, which was stoked after the All Blacks beat the Wallabies twice to retain the Bledisloe Cup this summer.

While the third Test in Perth may be a dead-rubber in that series, it will still play a vital role in determining this year’s Rugby Championship winner.

Rugby Australia chief executive Andy Marinos called it “incredibly disappointing” to have learned of New Zealand’s decision through the media.

Marinos later commented that he wanted it “in writing” that the All Blacks would stick to a rescheduled date, threatening to seek compensation if they did not.

Meanwhile, Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie said he was “bloody angry” with how the matter had been handled by New Zealand Rugby.

Alexander’s comments regarding board activity resemble the mentality of most athletes, with rugby players tending to leave any ill feelings toward one another on the field of play.

That approach doesn’t differ for the southern hemisphere’s shot-callers, it seems, even in the face of such dramatic turns as the one they encountered this past week.

South Africa travelled to Australia on Thursday as incumbent leaders of the Rugby Championship, having defeated Argentina in back-to-back meetings.

New Zealand and Australia will catch up in games played when they face off in Perth, however, with Ian Foster’s All Blacks hoping to reclaim the summit.

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