|Image Pink Rugby|
An expanded Super Rugby competition is to come into effect in 2016. The existing fifteen teams from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are to be joined by a sixth South African franchise while Argentina and Singapore are both to have one team each. With two new countries added Super Rugby is to expand for the first time since it became a professional competition in 1996. Argentina will also become a SANZAR member.
The expanded Super Rugby format is soon to be made official. It is to be a much changed competition and one certain to be received with hostility by those interested in protecting the interests of the players. The attempts to cut-down on travel time have failed. Groups from within Australia and New Zealand have been vocal in requesting greater rest time to allow for established and potential All Blacks and Wallabies to be in prime condition for international competition.
Some are to therefore not be pleased to learn that two new countries are to join Super Rugby to make it a five country competition. Both Argentina and Singapore are to be allocated one team each while South Africa is to have a sixth. The new competition will therefore involve a total of eighteen teams and no longer be retricted to either the Eastern Hemisphere or the Southern Hemisphere.
Details of the new Super Rugby competition were confirmed by former Pumas captain Agustín Pichot. Buenos Aires newspaper La Nacion quoted the scrumhalf who explained the changes and the long time involved to have made it possible. Indeed having Argentina join Super Rugby has taken a very long time and it was long opposed by both Australia and New Zealand with South Africa insisting that Argentina ought to be involved. With the unions requiring larger budgets to move forward adding Argentina came to be considered as logical.
Nothing has been made official yet due to the format remaining unconfirmed in addition to the television revenue streams still being finalized. All is expected to be made official in June but La Nacion nonetheless points out that Argentina will play and that the UAR is to become a SANZAR partner for five years. Singapore, on contrast, will not be joining SANZAR. The Asian country remains a Tier Three rugby nation and is not likely to be playing at a Rugby World Cup any time soon. It is however, like Argentina, of significant value in terms of television and has a notable expat population of Australians and New Zealanders.
The decision to expand to include Singapore comes at the expense of Rugby World Cup 2019 hosts, Japan. Both Australia and New Zealand favored Singapore due to its strategic location which can be made to fit in much easier than Japan. The team based in Singapore will be one made up of players from a host of countries with there being potential for it to consist of a large proportion of Pacific Islanders to assist the three Tier two nations of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga. The franchise is to be called the Asia-Pacific Dragons.
Argentina´s team will not be Los Pumas, but rather Los Pampas. It is to be a commercial entity and, as such, will be 51% owned by the UAR and 49% private making it a professional team. The UAR is to either have the 49% share owned by a business man or company either from Argentina or abroad. To assist in the process the UAR has been having regular meeting with South African authorities who have a similar set-up of sharing power between the union and the Super Rugby franchises.
Pichot has been arguing for existing Super Rugby franchises to sign Argentine players. He maintains this position saying it is for the benefit of all SANZAR nations. Argentina will require four players per position wioth two to be playing for the Argentine franchise and the two others involved in other Super Rugby teams either in Singapore or an existing SANZAR union franchise. Presently only Manuel Carizza and Matíaz Díaz have Super Rugby contracts while many more continue to sign contracts in England and France.
The Argentine side will have forty players, all contracted in the shared agreement between the UAR and the private investor. To see the process completed Pichot says the UAR will be contracting a CEO. It is probable that it will be someone extensively involved in rugby, but not from Argentina. Pichot has ruled himself out of contention. The man who captained Argentina to Bronze place in 2007, saw Argentina added to the Tri Nations and now Super Rugby will be involved in other things. He has previously shared his desire for Argentina to host Rugby World Cup 2023.