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Super officials mull expansion into US, Japan


Duncan Johnstone

"I don't think anything is off the table at all post-2015" ... Peters.

"I don't think anything is off the table at all post-2015" ... Peters. Photo: Getty Images

SUPER RUGBY looks ready to take the next step and extend into new territories beyond Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

The potential riches on offer in the American and Asian markets could prove irresistible.

It's not a new concept, but the timing could finally be right. A new broadcasting deal must be struck for 2016 and that coincides with rugby's reintroduction to the Olympics when they are held in Brazil that year.

There is also the lure created by Japan's need to push its game up another level as it readies to host the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

And importantly, unlike in the past, Super Rugby now has a format that allows extra teams because of its conference system.

Internal expansion does not appear likely. Despite South African pleas for a sixth team, there is a feeling the playing depth in New Zealand and Australia has been exhausted.

It's the money that might be too good to ignore, however. Tough economic circumstances have stretched local markets. Fresh fields represent new gold, especially those on either side of the North Pacific.

''From broadcast revenue and commercial revenue perspectives, there are some very big markets out there that are potential markets that SANZAR [South Africa, New Zealand and Australia Rugby] might want to explore on the back of the growing impact of Sevens and the Olympics,'' SANZAR chief executive Greg Peters said. ''There are absolutely possibilities within the [United] States and Japan for increased television revenue and a lot of that has to do with Sevens being in the 2016 Olympics.

''I don't think anything is off the table at all post-2015, and, particularly with the conference format, you can add other conferences or … teams to the current conferences. There are lots of different things that can be done with the format….

''But I don't think anyone, particularly in New Zealand or South Africa, would want to see more weeks of rugby. So it's how you structure what you have got into those weeks. We always have to remember that we do this for what's in the best interests of rugby and commercial revenue for the three SANZAR countries.''

There is also the appealing opportunity to place at-risk or surplus players in offshore teams in a SANZAR competition rather than have them nabbed by rich European clubs.

''That could well have some legs,'' Peters said. ''But the key for it to be successful, as you see in Japan, is it has to have a majority of local players. That's where the States becomes more attractive because they have the athletes, NFL guys that don't make it, we just need to make sure they have the skills that rugby needs.''

Football has taken a long road to establish itself in the US but Major League Soccer is now a respected competition. Peters felt the long-term potential of rugby there was similar and believed Sevens could start that push. ''You know what the attraction of an Olympic gold medal does for those big countries,'' he said. ''They get right behind it.''

There is also the important question of where SANZAR's blossoming relationship with Argentina goes next. The Pumas join the All Blacks, Springboks and Wallabies in the Rugby Championship this year and clearly have the potential to operate at the level below that.

Rugby Internationals 2014

Round 1
Sat, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 18 vs TGA 18 Report Stats
FJI 25 vs ITA 14 Report Stats
NZL 20 vs ENG 15 Report Stats
AUS 50 vs FRA 23 Report Stats
Sun, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 47 vs WXV 13 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 29 Report Stats
USA 6 vs SCO 24 Report Stats
CAN 25 vs JPN 34 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sat, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 15 vs ITA Report Stats
FJI 45 vs TGA 17 Report Stats
NZL 28 vs ENG 27 Report Stats
AUS 6 vs FRA Report Stats
Sun, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 38 vs WAL 16 Report Stats
CAN 17 vs SCO 19 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 23 Report Stats
USA 29 vs JPN 37 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Sat, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
ARG 19 vs SCO 21 Report Stats
FJI 13 vs SAM 18 Report Stats
JPN 26 vs ITA 23 Report Stats
AUS 39 vs FRA 13 Stats
NZL 36 vs ENG 13 Report Stats
Sun, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 31 vs WAL 30 Report Stats
USA 38 vs CAN 35 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Sun, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 55 vs SCO 6 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Sun, 02 NovTimes shown AEDT
BAR 36 vs AUS 40 Report Stats
USA 6 vs NZL 74 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Sun, 09 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 24 vs SAM 13 Report Stats
ENG 21 vs NZL 24 Report Stats
WAL 28 vs AUS 33 Report Stats
FRA 40 vs FJI 14 Report Stats
IRE 29 vs RSA 15 Report Stats
SCO 41 vs ARG 31 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Sun, 16 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 18 vs ARG 20 Report Stats
ENG 28 vs RSA 31 Report Stats
WAL 17 vs FJI 13 Report Stats
SCO 16 vs NZL 24 Report Stats
FRA 29 vs AUS 26 Report Stats
Mon, 17 NovTimes shown AEDT
IRE 49 vs GEO 7 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Sun, 23 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 6 vs RSA 22 Report Stats
SCO 37 vs TGA 12 Report Stats
IRE 26 vs AUS 23 Report Stats
WAL 16 vs NZL 34 Report Stats
ENG 28 vs SAM 9 Report Stats
FRA 13 vs ARG 18 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Sun, 30 NovTimes shown AEDT
ENG vs AUS 01:30Twic
WAL vs RSA 01:30MilS
View All Fixtures
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