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Super Rugby Aotearoa: Round 10; Women's Super Rugby

Welcome to this week’s edition of The Tip-On!

If you want to find out about the experiences of Heather Alley — grandmother of current Black Ferns and Chiefs midfielder Chelsea — reporting on rugby anonymously for the Waikato Times in the 1950s, you can listen to her speak to Sky Sport NZ here.

If you want to read my latest piece of analysis for The XV, you can find it — a look at why David Havili would be a good fit for the All Blacks at 12 — here.

All in-game data per ESPNScrum unless otherwise stated.

Up and up

One of the SANZAAR unions released their 2020 annual report last week, and its chief executive stressed to the media the importance of private equity investment to safeguard the future of rugby in their country.

Meanwhile, across the Tasman, New Zealand Rugby got the backing it sought from the provincial unions for its Silver Lake investment agreement — but has yet to get the necessary confirmation from the NZRPA that they will approve the deal.

Both parties are taking a break from the mediation process for a few weeks, but NZR remain hopeful that an agreement with the Players’ Association will be reached.

At this juncture, it’s worth taking a quick look at what the NZRPA’s concerns are in a bit of detail. First of all, their CEO Rob Nichol has stressed that he agrees with the union that some form of capital investment is necessary:

“[E]veryone seems aligned with the fact we need to shore up the balance sheets, and debt is not something that is palatable to NZ Rugby. It does look like we are talking more about the how, not the what.”

For them, the unpalatable part of the Silver Lake agreement appears to be the fact that — rather than giving up rights to a share of their future commercial profits or losses — NZR is effectively selling the investor a royalty agreement, with the union “selling revenue and retaining all the costs”.

This effectively gives the private equity firm some additional protection in the event that the business cannot be grown at the rate which they are hoping for. From the NZRPA’s position, it seems entirely reasonable to consider the possibility of things not working out as planned given the steep growth that is being forecast:

(The NZ Herald reporting referred to in the chart can be found here, and the reporting for The XV here.)

It’s this specific part of the proposed agreement that would, according to the Association, see NZR take on “a very high level of financial risk” itself.

It is worth noting that, in return for taking on that risk and guaranteeing Silver Lake positive cash flows on an annual basis, NZR appears to have been able to negotiate terms that strongly protect them in other areas, including the right to buy the stake back upon the investor’s exit and no increase to the number of fixtures played by the All Blacks each year.

According to Stuff’s explainer on the deal last week, “[a]n independent review, commissioned by NZ Rugby’s stakeholders, is understood to have reported it had rarely seen a minority-stake private equity deal with so many controls in favour of the majority stakeholder”.

Nonetheless, from the outside, the financial structure of the investment and the growth required to make it work as planned for all parties are potentially concerning — and as a consequence it’s not surprising that Nichol and the NZRPA want to look before they leap.

Foreign fields

Last weekend, there were 28 Kiwis playing in top-level competition overseas:

France vs. England

- vs. Amy Cokayne (2)

Toulouse vs. Bordeaux

Charlie Faumuina (3), Jerome Kaino (8), Pita Ahki (12), Iosefa Tekori (19) vs. Ben Lam (11), Ben Tameifuna (18)

La Rochelle vs. Leinster

Uini Atonio (3), Victor Vito (8), Tawera Kerr-Barlow (9), Ihaia West (10) vs. James Lowe (11)

Leicester vs. Ulster

- vs. Sean Reidy (20), Alby Mathewson (21)

Bayonne vs. Castres

Joe Ravouvou (11), Michael Ruru (20) vs. Ma'ama Vaipulu

Racing 92 vs. Stade Français

- vs. Telusa Veainu (14)

Toulon vs. Agen

Isaia Toeava (13), Rudi Wulf (20) vs. Sam Vaka (12), Jordan Puletua (22)

Clermont Auvergne vs. Brive

George Moala (13) vs. So'otala Fa'aso'o (18)

Brumbies vs. Force

Irae Simone (12) vs. Jeremy Thrush (4), Richard Kahui (13), Toni Pulu (14)

Loose threads

In case you missed it on Twitter this week

  • Zarn Sullivan bringing something different to the Blues’ 15 shirt against the Chiefs

  • Midfielder Sylvia Brunt showing off her talent in the same colours a few hours beforehand

Quick hits