Senior All Blacks not surprised by South Africa's Super Rugby exit, embrace no more long flights

This morning's announcement from South Africa Rugby that their Super Rugby teams will be heading North came as little surprise to the likes of All Blacks Aaron Smith and Sam Cane.

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Sam Cane and Aaron Smith said they feel sorry for young Super Rugby players missing out on the experience though. Source: 1 NEWS

In fact, the All Blacks captain said there had been "whispers" about it for years.

But with those whispers finally confirmed, Cane and Smith admit there's mixed feelings among senior players towards the decision; relief they no longer have to face long flights every season to South Africa, but sadness for younger players who will miss out on that experience.

"If you're lucky enough to play international rugby, we'll still have that awesome challenge of going [to South Africa]," Cane said.

"For me, I don't think there's a much bigger challenge than playing a South African team in front of a packed-out South African crowd.

"But if you put your Super Rugby hat on, it's a bit of a shame that a lot of those young guys won't get to experience that."

Cane said he was "super excited" as a young player getting to fly to South Africa for the first time but after nine years of long hauls, the novelty of first class flights and touring has worn off.

"For the first four or five years it's super exciting but the next four or five, it's like 'oh, we're going back there again'."

The thought of fewer long flights appealed to Smith too.

"Not to sound ungrateful but to go there 20 times, you sort of lose interest in that 14-hour flight there and back."

Smith said he could also understand where South Africa was coming from with their decision, given the financial situation Covid-19 has put them in.

"With the circumstances of what we're all going through, we've got to do what's best for each country," Smith said.

"If they're doing what they're doing, we've just got to do what we can."