When Samoa left the 1995 World Cup after a quarter-final loss to the hosts and eventual champions South Africa, they believed they would be included in the new professional Super Rugby series.

That anticipation was fuelled by discussions with South Africa Rugby Union boss Louis Luyt and his advisers so the Samoan group decided it was politically wise to staunch any criticism of the Springboks' tactics after what had been a rugged Ellis Park encounter. Players were cautioned to be gracious in defeat with the hope they would be winners when the southern hemisphere tournament was sorted.

Some of the group played in the inaugural 1996 Super Rugby tournament but not in the sky blue jerseys of Samoa as organisers kept to the New Zealand, Australia and South Africa alliance.

The format has altered and sides from Argentina and Japan have been included but after 23 years a Pacific Island team remains outside that arrangement and although matches have been played in the islands, financial issues have restricted that roster. A push for inclusion has gained more impetus with ongoing reports and studies into how that could occur as Sanzaar planned for a future after the 2020 season.


The issues are multiple and complex. How would a team in the islands be funded, where would it be based, what are their coaching resources and should it be a combined team?

All of us get a warm feeling when talk ramps up about a side from the Pacific Islands but when the concept is distilled to the realities of such a project, the issues get more complex. The financial implications are heavy but that is an issue throughout the tournament.

Television ratings are not what they used to be and crowds have dropped as time differences, match standards and competing interests have bitten into the tournament.

An ill-advised expansion to 18 teams got the heave-ho and that will breed more caution into future regeneration or ideas about setting up a side from the Pacific Islands.

Shifting their base to Australia or New Zealand has been mooted but if that's the case why not shift the Jaguares and Sunwolves to simplify the punishing travel component?

Then there is the untapped market in the United States that has long fascinated those with a wider vision for the game. That connection found some more noise when Hawaiian investor Richard Fale suggested a side based there would offer that gateway to the US market and would also be a solid commercial partner for Sanzaar.

On many levels that concept would fit if there were enough players to sustain a decent side. It would also resurrect the notion that Super Rugby's awkward itinerary would be better served if teams from South Africa played in Europe and a schedule was revamped around the Pacific and western seaboard of the US.

They are all notions which will be thrown into the mix at the end of the Sanzaar deal.

Somewhere in the middle of that potpourri there should be room for a team from the Pacific.