The Hurricanes are still hopeful of luring the next Beauden Barrett to their Wellington base despite Taranaki jumping into bed with the Chiefs.
Hurricanes chief executive James Te Puni said he was "disappointed but not surprised" by the announcement yesterday that Taranaki is breaking off 17 years of tradition to try their luck elsewhere.
Time will tell whether the general flow of Taranaki players switches to Hamilton rather than Wellington, but Te Puni seems unfazed.
He said professional rugby's new model meant players went where they were required or best suited rather than showing loyalty to their nearest franchise.
"Our research shows us that the Hurricanes are still the No 1 Super rugby team as far as Taranaki people are concerned, and we are hopeful that support will continue in the same way as when we go to Auckland there is a fan base of Canes supporters," Te Puni said.
"We still hope to see the next Beauden Barrett running out in a Hurricanes jersey. As far as provincial unions are concerned, players are playing all over the country these days. We are hoping that the tradition of players from under the mountain looking to the Canes continues."
When Taranaki's move to the Chiefs became increasingly likely, Te Puni tabled a new deal that would have resulted in Taranaki hosting two Hurricanes games next season.
"We put a strong offer to them. We were prepared to take a couple of games to New Plymouth each year," Te Puni said.
"[But] they had made a decision to go the Chiefs. I want the fans in Taranaki to know we put the best foot forward in terms of games.
"We would've preferred Taranaki to stay within the family of nine [Hurricanes' provinces]."
Predictably, there were immediate grizzles in the Waikato region about 'losing' two Chiefs games to New Plymouth next season.
Next year's home games to be played in New Plymouth will be against the Blues on Friday, May 9, and the Waratahs three weeks later on Saturday, May 31. Waikato Stadium will host the other six home games with Pukekohe and Mt Maunganui missing out.
The details of the new Chiefs ownership model was announced by New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew.
The Taranaki Rugby Football Union joins the Chiefs as part of a seven-year licence. In the joint deal, the Chiefs take two home games to New Plymouth in each of the next two seasons.
The Waikato, Counties Manukau, Thames Valley, Bay of Plenty, King Country and Taranaki provincial unions will provide 50 per cent of a $3.3 million investment in the organisation.
The other half will be provided by private investors from Waikato, Taranaki and, for the first time in New Zealand Super Rugby franchises, overseas through Mauritius-based Chiefs fan and businessman Eric Series.
- The Dominion Post
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