A former Global Rapid Rugby side are the latest team to express interest in New Zealand’s mooted replacement for Super Rugby.
The Asia Pacific Dragons, who participated in the GRR Showcase Series in 2019, have put forward a proposal to join the Blues, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Crusaders and Highlanders in 2022.
The Singapore-based Dragons recorded a solitary win in the 2019 Showcase, beating the South China Tigers 41-26. Throughout that competition, the Dragons used a number of Pacific Island players with test experience, including the likes of former Chiefs Nili Latu and Asaeli Tikoirotuma.
Pacific Island Rugby Players’ chairman and former Highlander Hale T-Pole is the director of rugby for the Dragons and has suggested that his club offers New Zealand and Australia a gateway to both the Pacific Islands and the wider Asia region. For rugby to advance in the Southern Hemisphere, T-Pole believes the traditional rugby powers must also be prepared to modernise and work with private investors.
“COVID has enforced the realities that the Super Rugby model wasn’t working or as commercially successful as was needed. We are now living in a new world with new opportunities, and new thinking,” T-Pole told the New Zealand Herald.
“NZR and Rugby Australia needs to re-think and actually change their approach to working with private entities such as ourselves and people like Andrew Forrest. We’ve demonstrated that private investment in rugby is a good thing, and it is a necessity for professional rugby to survive and thrive.”
The club would play home matches in both Auckland and Singapore but T-Pole has indicated it would be unrealistic to expect any new side to assemble a team that could compete with the likes of the Hurricanes, Crusaders or Brumbies by next season.
“Our proposal is for a 2022 entry which allows everyone time to ensure recruitment, commercial preparations and all aspects are successful,” T-Pole said.
T-Pole also suggested the New Zealand market is simply too crowded to accommodate another team that doesn’t have an audience in other zones.
“We also feel that as the only bid that can realistically bring the Asian market to the competition right out of blocks, we open up that potential. We cannot see another NZ-based team being commercially sustainable if NZ is the core commercial market.
“The other five brands already find themselves in an extremely cluttered market so we feel any new entrant team must bring a major expansion market with them to be sustainable, but also bring value to the competition.”
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