Oberholzer slams NZRFU
February 19, 2002

South African Rugby managing director Rian Oberholzer on Tuesday launched a scathing attack on the New Zealand Rugby Football Union, saying they toyed with him before rejecting the proposed Super 14 venture.

"I am very concerned," said Oberholzer. "They were never serious."

Oberholzer (pictured) said that while Australia and South Africa were upset at New Zealand using their veto powers to block the way for an extended tournament, they were powerless to act.

"We can do very little because of the initial joint venture agreement ... we can't do anything but wait until 2005."

Former Bok coach Andre Markgraaff said that New Zealand's reluctance to expand a tournament, in which they dominate in terms of teams, came as no surprise.

"I expected it," said Markgraaff, "I really can't see NZ playing more rugby and in the process, shooting themselves in the foot. They will not be so foolish as to allow another team."

But Oberholzer admitted that despite the logic in Markgraaff's words, he had no reason to believe the NZRFU would string them along. "There was no reason not to trust them ... I thought they would be big enough and agree for the better of South African and Australian rugby.

"But they only worry about New Zealand rugby, they have an attitude of 'We don't give a damn what happens in your country.'"

Oberholzer said the issues and conditions that the NZ hierarchy had set out were impossible to achieve.

"Their first issue was that they wanted us assist and caucus around one less international test match being played in their territory but that is not under our direct control.

"Then they wanted us to agree on the revenue post 2005 which is totally ridiculous and unacceptable."

Other South African rugby officials said the decision not to expand the Super 12 tournament was a major setback. Silas Nkanunu, chairman of the South African Rugby Football Union (SARFU), said New Zealand's decision to block expansion against Sarfu and Australia's wishes was disappointing.

Australian Rugby Union CEO John O'Neill could not hide his emotions at what he called "treason".

"We will not forget what they have done to us," said O'Neill. Meanwhile Oberholzer poured cold water over suggestions that South Africa and Australia would pull out of the Super 12 post-2005 and join a breakaway European league. - Sapa

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