Salaries for provincial rugby players have dropped by over a million dollars in the past year.
The New Zealand Rugby Union says payments to players across the 14 provincial unions dropped to $12.8 million last year, down $1.1 million from 2011.
The figure was also $3.5 million lower than the maximum permitted under NZRU rules.
The salary cap is set at the lower of either $1.35 million or 36 per cent of the union's commercial revenue.
The chief executive of the NZRU Steve Tew says player payments remain the biggest bill for any union so keeping those costs in check is critical.
He says the 2012 results are a positive sign of the effort provinces are making to live within in their means.