Sunwolves will be ready – SANZAR boss

Date published: November 25 2015

SANZAR's newly-appointed chief executive Andy Marinos has backed Super Rugby's new teams to cause a few upsets in 2016.

Three new sides will join the competition next year – Japan's Sunwolves, the Kings for South Africa and a yet-to-be-named side from Argentina – as the competition continues its expansion to 18 teams.

Some doubts have been expressed over the capacity of the Sunwolves and Kings to compete as neither has appointed a head coach just over three months before the opening weekend.

Sunwolves have yet to make any significant announcements around their squad while last week the South African Rugby Union was forced to take control of the cash-strapped Kings, who failed to pay players salaries and have struggled in the Currie Cup.

Marinos insisted that he is "100 per cent confident" the Japanese franchise will be ready for 2016 and expects them to appoint a coach within the next fortnight.

"They have contracted a core group of around 24 to 25 Japanese players," Marinos told reporters via teleconference on Wednesday.

"We expect they will finalise their coach in the next week or two.

"And there are obviously a few players who are waiting to understand who that coach is before they commit. We expect to see a lot more traction in the next week or two."

Sunwolves, who will play some of their games in Singapore, will play their maiden fixture against the Lions in Tokyo on February 27.

Marinos admitted to having concerns about next year's expansion but pointed to past examples of the dangers of writing teams off too soon.

"With the Kings and Japan it's a hell of a lot of the unknown – how are they going to adapt to the travel, to the schedule," he said.

"But in saying that I've learned one thing in rugby you can never start writing off teams before the competition gets under way and I have no doubt that any one of those teams who may not start the season off well will have a huge upset in their ranks at some stage."

Marinos added that SANZAR was looking to continue the trend of expansion into new markets, particularly Asia and North America.

"I think you've got to have a pretty open piece of paper," he said.

"Besides the rugby strength that you've got to look at it's also got to be in good markets from a commercial point of view because at the end of the day you've got to generate sufficient revenue to sustain the competition so you've got to look across the board.

"It's not too dissimilar to what our rivals in the north have tried to achieve with Italy coming into the Six Nations and lifting the standard of rugby in that area," he explained.

"So we're going to be looking at that and Asia and [North America] are markets that are very immature at this moment but have huge potential to be even more mature. 

"We've seen the benefit coming out of Argentina since they've been actively involved in our structures.

"I think the participation and inclusion of Pacific Island players into the competition is really important. How we do that is going to be the next step and is going to need a fair bit of thought behind it."