Super Rugby in the USA? It could happen
A NORTH American team in Super Rugby is more likely than a new team in New Zealand, according to SANZAR boss Andy Marinos.
With six franchises in South Africa and five each in Australia and New Zealand, Marinos has said the markets in those countries had reached saturation point and suggested any competition expansion would come in other regions.
He said strategic investment could be made in the United States over several years, as happened with Argentina before it entered the Super tournament this year with the Jaguares.
Marinos said Super Rugby needed to improve its competitiveness, but said the controversial conference system that made its debut in 2016 was here to stay.
He said the amount of money being spent by English and French teams represented a significant threat to the game in the southern hemisphere.
"We've already seen a mass exodus of players out of Africa and Australia, and if it continues at the rate it is, I think it could impact all the other markets in SANZAR,” Marinos said.
The first year of the conference format drew plenty of criticism, especially around the draw, with some sides not playing New Zealand teams and some teams hosting finals against sides that accumulated more points.
"The format is going to stay in conferences for the foreseeable future given our geographical challenges we've got,” Marinos said.
Several Australian and South African sides struggled in the 2016 Super tournament, which was dominated by New Zealand teams, which took three of the four semi-final placings.
"It is a concern,” Marinos said.
Despite some negativity, he was adamant there wasn't much wrong with the product, pointing to viewing figures and game statistics.
"I do tend to get the feeling, especially in this market (Australia) and New Zealand and probably even in South Africa to a degree, people think the whole thing is broken, but it's not,” Marinos said.
"It's a damn good competition.”