Super Rugby Aotearoa

Ex-Blitzboks skipper Mpho Mbiyozo: I think NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is amazing

Mpho Mbiyozo
Mpho Mbiyozo
Shaun Roy/Gallo Images
  • NZ-based former Blitzboks captain, Mpho Mbiyozo, commended Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for her swift and decisive action.
  • NZ has enjoyed two delightful weekends, going into their third, of uninhibited live sports action, including the revamped Super Rugby Aotearoa.
  • More than 100 000 people in total attended the first two rounds of Super Rugby Aotearoa, double the count of the seven weeks prior to lockdown in March.

New Zealand-based former Blitzboks captain, Mpho Mbiyozo, lauded Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, whose handling of the Covid-19 pandemic allowed the country to enjoy a return to rugby action to packed stadiums this month.

Mbiyozo, who emigrated with his family to NZ last year, is currently the head coach of club side Belfast, which falls under the Canterbury clubs.

In his time in Christchurch, he has witnessed the mosque attacks and the global Covid-19 epidemic, both of which he said were deftly handled by Ardern.

"I think she's amazing," Mbiyozo told Sport24.

"The way she's handled this whole situation, with the government, has just been brilliant. It's the second major thing I’ve witnessed since getting here last year, the 2019 attacks and this.

"The way they've gone about it, how decisive they were, has been brilliant. It's nothing short of amazing. In saying that, you’ve got to commend the people of New Zealand.

"The hashtag was #TeamOf5Million and everyone played their role in ensuring that the country defeated or overcame Covid-19. But you get those few guys who cough at people inside the stores and stuff.

"A few citizens, like the older generation, are not big fans of hers - which is the norm in any political situation, you can’t have everybody vouching for you. But as an outsider, I commend and I applaud Jacinda.

"They've done an incredible job and as a result everything is back to normal."

Rugby-playing countries, especially South Africa, have been green with envy over the previous two weekends while Super Rugby Aotearoa has been on the go.

The Blues' opening match against the Hurricanes in Auckland brought 42 000 people out to the game, the largest Super Rugby crown at Eden Park in 15 years.

South Africa, on the other hand, have only been given the go-ahead for a return to training this month, which has yet to be fully ratified by the sports ministry.

Players have not trained or played since mid-March when the virus hit.

But Mbiyozo said his home country’s and his adopted country's socio-political situations were too different to even compare.

"The social issues between the two countries are very different," he said.

"You're also talking about an island of five million people, whereas in South Africa the population is 57 million-plus.

"It's always gonna be a major issue and a struggle because of the socio-economic state that side. Here in New Zealand pretty much everyone has a job and if you don't, the government takes care of you.

"For lack of a better word, it's easier to control a population of five million than 57 million people."

According to figures supplied by each team, and reported by Stuff.co.nz, Super Rugby Aotearoa boasted 105 323 total number of fans who attended matches in the past two weekends.

New Zealand Rugby said the figure more than doubled the attendance records of the seven weeks prior to the spread of the coronavirus.

"It’s been amazing to see the support," said Mbiyozo.

"For 40-odd days, people were starved of live sport. This again goes to show how big a role sport plays in our society.

"When we came back, everyone was pumped and amped and wanted to get involved. Club and schools rugby started last weekend as well, and everyone wants to get involved and to help.

"It's fantastic to see."