Key Points:

Tasman chief executive Peter Barr says Marlborough and Nelson Bays must quickly smoke the peace pipe after his rugby union today survived a culling from the Air NZ Cup.

The New Zealand Rugby Union board announced it had opted to overturn a "draft final decision" to axe Tasman and Northland from the premier provincial competition, reducing it to 12 teams.

While relieved and delighted at the decision, Barr admitted there was a need for the two provinces that formed the amalgamation to prove they are on the same wavelength.

After that will come the task of repaying a $340,000 loan from the NZRU.

" We have some work to do in terms of repairing our relationship with Marlborough and convincing them that this is in the best interest of Tasman rugby and we will do that over the next week," said Barr.

That will please NZRU chairman Jock Hobbs and chief executive Steve Tew, who today said Tasman had a lot of work ahead to ensure its survival in the top division.

"They need to retain Marlborough and Nelson Bays regions - the joint venture needs to remain together effectively," Hobbs said.

"And they need to establish to our satisfaction that they can be financially viable."

Tew said Tasman had to quickly formulate a plan to repay the $340,000 granted them a month ago which allowed the merger to continue to the end of the current season.

"They've come to us and said `our community wants to be in here, we can afford to be here and we'll repay you that money'.

"Well, that's now a condition."

No date had been set for full repayment but Tew said it would be "sensible and reasonable".

Barr said there had been a groundswell of support for the Makos in Marlborough since news that they were on death row.

"We just need to convince some of the other stakeholders that have been a little more negative towards Tasman's future," he said.

"We need to cement that relationship and we will meet with all stakeholders whether life members or clubs.

"We need to have a viable financial model to ensure we are successful for the next two years."

Barr, Tasman chairman Mike Spence and coach Todd Blackadder had met the board yesterday in a "relaxed" session.

"We didn't feel threatened or nervous - we were given a very fair hearing, were asked some questions and it was all over in an hour.

"We just needed to convince the board that this was in the best interests of New Zealand rugby, they have seen it our way and we are grateful for that."

He said Blackadder was delighted for his players as it had been a stressful time with their careers on the line.

"He's as delighted and as relieved as I am that we have a future."

Among other tasks Barr faces is to seek a replacement for Blackadder, who will become coach of the Crusaders in next year's Super 14.

With Tasman making a Ranfurly Shield challenge against Wellington tomorrow, Barr hoped today's reprieve would be reflected in their performance.

" It would be a double whammy, wouldn't it?"

- NZPA