Super Rugby eyes USA franchise as no changes made for 2017

Hurricanes wing Cory Jane celebrating his try with flanker Brad Shields during the 2016 Investec Super Rugby final. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Hurricanes wing Cory Jane celebrating his try with flanker Brad Shields during the 2016 Investec Super Rugby final. Photo / Mark Mitchell

A North American team in Super Rugby? That's more likely to happen than a new team in New Zealand according to SANZAAR boss Andy Marinos.

Speaking on the unchanged Super Rugby format for next year, Marinos says any expansion to Super Rugby would come in areas like North America instead of within the current nations.

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 the United States was one area that could be looked at given some strategic investment over a number of years, as happened with Argentina before it entered the Super tournament this year with the Jaguares.

Marinos admitted Super Rugby needs to improve its competitiveness, but said the hotly debated conference system which made its debut in 2016 is 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 SANZAAR." 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 which accumulated more points.

"The format is going to stay in conferences for the foreseeable future given our geographical challenges we've got," Marinos said in Sydney on Monday.

'It's more 'how do we get the competitiveness in the teams and understanding that it's not easy'. This is a blooming tough competition."

The draw for 2017 will be released today.

Australian representatives had the chance to air any grievances at this week's two-day meeting of coaches, CEOs and other stakeholders at the 2016 Super Rugby review in Sydney, but were apparently diplomatic.

"They were quite quiet to be honest but they understand where we are in the strategy," Marinos said.

Several Australian and South African sides struggled in the 2016 Super tournament, which was dominated by New Zealand teams, who took three of the four semi-final placings.

"It is a concern. It's been a concern for a while, but that's a national union objective around high performance plans and how they are getting their squads together," Marinos said.

Despite some of the negativity surrounding Super Rugby, Marinos 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."

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