A stellar line-up of past and present All Blacks is coming for Queenstown’s National Rugby Sevens – pity about the cost-cutting Cantabs.
Event organisers have managed to attract current All Black stars Mils Muliaina and Ma’a Nonu. They’ll be joined by former All Blacks Christian Cullen, Frano Botica and Ofisa Junior Tonu’u. Ex-Kiwi league player Logan Swann and former NZ sevens rep Matua Parkinson round out the non-playing group of star
In a shock move, they won’t be joined for the January 9-10 annual tournament by one of the country’s most successful rugby provinces – Canterbury aren’t coming to save on the $4500 entry fee.
Canterbury boss Hamish Riach confirms they’ve pulled out for financial reasons.
“We’ve had a very tough year and we’re making savings where we can.”
The Crusaders recorded a $300,000 loss while Canterbury’s provincial team is expected to declare an $800,000 deficit.
“It’s not a snub of sevens, certainly not a snub of Queenstown or the national tournament, it is simply part of a whole range of changes we’ve had to make,” Riach says.
Canterbury players wanting to play in the tournament have been lent to other teams, Riach adds.
Organising committee chairman Clark Frew says the tournament again features 16 teams, including Otago and Southland but not local hope Otago Country.
“Canterbury not coming won’t detract one iota,” Frew says.
Frew says the $4500 paid by unions is “a pittance” compared to flight, accommodation and food costs for teams. The committee, aided by sponsors, pays those bills.
Frew is delighted Southland-raised Muliaina, 29 – the second most-capped All Black of all time – and explosive second-five Nonu, 27, are coming.
“They’re just down with a group of friends trying to have time away from rugby, but they’ve made themselves available for signing autographs,” Frew says.