'Split' fears of Stransky

Rugby Union

CATHERINE RILEY

Joel Stransky, the Springbok stand-off, said yesterday that South Africa's rugby union players could be split between the rival pay-for-play plans of Rupert Murdoch and Kerry Packer.

"The players must stick together," Stransky said. "But what is important is that here in South Africa there aren't just two teams like in Australia, where it's much easier to stand together. It just needs a bit of a misunderstanding, with not everyone knowing what's going on, and a split could occur. If there is a split, it'll be here in South Africa."

Stransky gave a guarded welcome to the proposals of Packer's World Rugby Corporation, saying: "It can work, but only if the unions are with it. I think most of us in the game would like to see everything resolved with the rugby set-up staying as it is. The players must get a good financial package and this means all the provincial players getting a good deal as well. It's not practical if 28 Springboks go one way and none of the provincial players go."

Richie Guy, the New Zealand Rugby Football Union chairman, has said he was "surprised" by the extent of the All Blacks' unhappiness with the union. The unrest has led the All Blacks to favour Packer's plans for a professional competition.

Guy and Laurie Mains, the All Blacks coach, have discussed players' worries, including the perceived lack of consultation on many issues. High on the list were problems players had with a television rights deal with Murdoch's News Corp, which created a new range of competitions specifically for television.

He also said that the first two days of offering contracts to provincial players "was going fairly positively". However, he did confirm the contracts being offered to provincial players did not necessarily mean they would be paid. That would only happen if they were to play in one of five International Provincial Championship teams.

There are no immediate plans to reduce the number of teams for the next Rugby World Cup, despite criticism that too many games during this summer's tournament were one-sided. Sir Ewart Bell, chairman of Rugby World Cup Ltd, rejected criticism that the 20 sides who contested the finals in South Africa were too many. The number will remain the same when Wales host the 1999 finals.

"It is important to try and get the right balance between the smaller countries and the established countries," he said.

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