Taranaki, Chiefs deal still a work in progress

GLENN MCLEAN
Last updated 05:00 25/07/2013

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Super Rugby

Robbie Fruean linked with a Crusaders return Highlanders add more to their Tasman stocks Super Rugby will miss All Blacks for first round Dave Rennie on the hunt for another halfback Chiefs snap up Bryce Heem and Sean Polwart Move to Taranaki pays off for Iopu-Aso Chiefs add two forwards to Super Rugby squad Chiefs grab Seta Tamanivalu, Mitchell Graham Kiwi talent features in new-look Samoan squad Graham returning to Chiefs as props recruited

Any deal between Taranaki Rugby and the Chiefs appears unlikely to be made public until September.

Taranaki Rugby chief executive Neil Pennington yesterday said there was nothing fresh to report as negotiations remain slow.

The New Zealand Rugby Union were keen to have the Chiefs' investment plan signed off by September 1 but it appears the governing body remains relaxed about letting it run past that date.

The slow progress of any potential deal could be attributed to several factors, including that most of the Chiefs' attention has been on defending their Super Rugby title and maximising revenue from home playoffs, and Taranaki Rugby chairman Lindsay Thomson has been away for several weeks.

When the Taranaki Daily News broke the story in May that Taranaki were bidding to be part of the Chiefs, the NZRU made it clear it wanted to gauge the "fans' reaction" to any possible switch from the Hurricanes and Chiefs.

The NZRU has yet to make any public comment on the results of those investigations or how they were conducted.

What is clear is that nothing will be released until the NZRU decides the time is right.

Although Pennington paid lip service last week to still being part of the Hurricanes franchise, the reality is Taranaki Rugby was never interested in investing in the Wellington franchise under the model offered to them.

The fact that Horowhenua-Kapiti this month took a 3 per cent stake for $100,000, and Hawke's Bay has expressed some interest in investing if it can make games at McLean Park profitable, has done nothing to sway Taranaki to remain a Hurricanes partner.

"At this stage we are just sitting there and haven't changed our view," Pennington told Fairfax NZ last week.

"We took into consideration a lot of factors when we looked at it [the Chiefs] and I don't think many of those factors have changed considerably."

Privately, several Taranaki Rugby board members have said it did not make financial sense to stay with the Hurricanes, while a deal with the Chiefs could be profitable and would fulfil the union's main objective - to get the best standard of rugby possible at Yarrow Stadium.

Taranaki hope to host two Chiefs Super Rugby matches per season under the deal.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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