New All Blacks coach Ian Foster has stressed how vital it is to keep the Springboks in the Rugby Championship after reports surfaced over the weekend the world champions were set to join an extended Six Nations competition.
Reports from the UK suggested the Springboks would join the northern hemisphere competition after 2023, meaning the All Blacks would see much less of their greatest rivals yearly.
"My initial reaction was thank goodness it was written in an English newspaper because I don't believe most of that stuff," Foster told Newstalk ZB.
"There's been a little bit of smoke around this for a while – the reality is our board has to make sure it has a strong relationship with South Africa and is talking, which I know they have been."
Foster said a season where the All Blacks don't play the Springboks would be extremely disappointing.
"If you take the politics out of it I can't imagine an All Black year not playing the South Africans. If you just think about it, historically they are our greatest foe.
"We need them in our competition, they are a fantastic group of people, fantastic country, and we need them to play here. We know they are committed to do that for the next cycle, we've just got to make sure we've got a working relationship with them and deal with things."
New Zealand Rugby boss Mark Robinson said yesterday South Africa couldn't leave the Rugby Championship regardless, telling Radio Sport they were part of SANZAAR's current broadcast deal which last until 2025.
"Like us, they've signed agreements with their broadcasters through 2025 to be involved with SANZAAR," Robinson said.
"And as recently as this week we were on calls talking about the future of our competitions at Super [Rugby] level and international level.
"They are people that we trust, they are very honest and they've been great partners over the last 25 years. We would like to think that we would be privy to those sorts of comments or conversations if they had been had."