Rugby: Tough road to a rugby team

When the news was made public that Singapore could host a club team to feature in the elite Super Rugby competition, it drew much excitement among the local sports industry.

Last month, the Singapore Rugby Union (SRU) confirmed their interest in fielding a professional team in the prestigious Southern Hemisphere competition in 2016, when it expands from 15 to 18 clubs.

To assemble the new outfit, the SRU have joined forces with Hong Kong-based Carinat Sports Marketing, which owns the Asia Pacific Dragons, an invitational side that showcases the region's best players.

Bidding is expected to begin in June to join the Super Rugby competition, which is currently made up of five clubs each from the rugby powerhouses of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

A sixth South African side and a new club from Argentina have filled two of the new spots opened up for 2016, leaving one place up for grabs.

Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, SRU president Low Teo Ping said biggest selling point in their bid would be the new 55,000-capacity National Stadium at the Singapore Sports Hub - it opens in June - which will be the home of the Asia Pacific Dragons' Super Rugby team.

But, he added: "Negotiations are still going on, there will be a meeting sometime after the Hong Kong Sevens (March 28 to 30) next week.

"If you ask me about our chances, I'll tell you I don't know, but we have to push along."

The journey for the Dragons to win the 18th spot is a formidable one.

STARS

When asked if the Dragons have lined up any stars to add to their roster, which is now predominantly filled with Asian names, Low said player recruitment would only happen if the bid is successful.

There has been wide interest for the sole remaining spot, and Singapore faces competition from Asia's No. 1 Japan and Hong Kong.

Japan may well be the favourites to get a franchise for the Super Rugby competition.

The country has long set the standard for rugby in Asia and will host the 2019 Rugby World Cup Finals.

Fielding a team in the world class arena of the Super Rugby competition will enhance the development of the game in Japan.

The 2016 competition format for Super Rugby should be revealed by June 30, when Sanzar, the governing body, must present its new model to television broadcasters.

When contacted yesterday, Carinat Sports Marketing's managing director Jon Phelps was not getting ahead of himself.

"Firstly, Super Rugby needs to decide if they even want an 18th team and if they want one from Asia," said Phelps.

"That's all I can say for now. At the moment, our priority is the Hong Kong 10s (March 26 to 27) and the World Club 10s in Singapore in June.

"We want to work with Singapore and the SRU in that regard."


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