Source: New Zealand Rugby

Super Aupiki Returns

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The good news is that Super Aupiki returns for a third season.

But concerns expressed from the start two years ago have not been stilled.

That 2022 tournament was ripped to shreds by the pandemic. Only a bare skeleton of fixtures could be fulfilled. But already people were asking whether it has benefiting New Zealand women’s rugby as a whole, when it consisted of only our franchises.

Last year went far better, and NZ Rugby have introduced improvements, not least in pay, for the this season. But there remain weaknesses that need urgent attention.

For the non-professionals playing, the sudden step-up to this demanding level is a real challenge. Many work a three-day week then travel to their HQ to prepare for a weekend match. With more games being played this year – an improvement widely welcomed – this only increases the burden placed on them There will now be six or seven matches per team, depending on their success through the play-off stages.

As regards the number of franchises: team managements and players insist there need to be more. There are only so many games you can squeeze out of four competing teams.

But interestingly, they aren’t looking initially within New Zealand; rather to Australia and the Pacific islands to bulk out the competition. As things stand at present, the geographical gaps between the four competitors, Blues, Chiefs Manawa, Hurricanes Poua and Matatū, makes public awareness of the tournament more difficult. Could there be a hook-up with Australia’s Super W?

Rugby Australia recognises the same problem. Phil Waugh, their CEO, is seeking a way of expanding their elite competition. Once again, they cast an eye towards Oceania for supplementing their basic ration of teams. Pasifika players are just as keen to enjoy more competition, but the devil is in the detail. A glance at the globe shows the vast distances involved, and somebody has got to find the cash to subsidise all these great plans.

As an indication of how things are developing, RA has helped form “Penina Pasifika”, comprising players from Samoa and Tonga. They are meeting on the Gold Coast Queensland to play in the Super W preseason competition. This move has caused great excitement locally. It helps even out the balance between the three major Oceania teams since Fijiana already form an integral pert of Super W; indeed they are making a habit of winning it.

Rugby League is watching you

Behind the difficulties outlined above lie larger-scale problems that I have touched on before. All is not well in New Zealand rugby. For the women in particular there is a double threat from Rugby League: first the planned reforming of the NZ Warriors team within the NRLW of Australia; second, Aussie RL clubs casting gredy eyes over the best rugby players Aotearoa has to offer. They can back up their interest with large sums of money – far more than even the doubling of pay NZR has offered its players.

As in other countries, the 2025 World Cup in England is a big incentive to stay faithful to the traditional game. But who knows what might follow thereafter? And the recent success of the Black Ferns 7s in Vancouver doesn’t make the picture any easier.

In last year’s WXV a handful of top Sevens players reverted to 15s. You could argue that if more of them had, they might have caused England a bigger stumbling-block than they did. But then the Olympics are coming. For the umpteenth time players and coaching staffs have to decide what the best policy is: keep the two codes quite distinct, or allow willing players to undertake both?

The underlying aim is to restore the Black Ferns to their traditional number one world ranking and ensure another World Cup. They are very aware of the competition coming from the northern hemisphere, but they don’t want to jeopardise the chance of an Olympic gold medal in the process. It’s becoming a high-wire act.


The teams will play each other home and away for the first time. Round one starts on Saturday 2 March.

Chiefs Manawa v Hurricanes Poua, Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
Matatū v Blues, Rugby Park, Invercargill

The grand final takes place on 13 April.