By Patrick McKendry
The addition of three teams and a re-jigged Super Rugby format have been met with a lukewarm response from most supporters but new Sanzaar boss Andy Marinos says the Sunwolves, Southern Kings and Jaguares will help re-invigorate the competition.
“Having new teams like this with a different style, different faces, different personality – it’s certainly going to bring a level of interest which we haven’t seen for a while,” Marinos said on Newstalk ZB today.
With Mark Hammett only just appointed as the Sunwolves coach in Tokyo – they will also play home matches in Singapore – and the struggling Kings almost certain to be basket cases once again, two of the three new teams will be happy just to pick up the occasional win. The Buenos Aires-based Jaguares will be more competitive, but once again the quality of the competition appears to have been watered down for the sake of expansion into so-called “new markets”.
It means Marinos’ comment is wildly optimistic. However, he also said the organisers – once known as Sanzar and now called Sanzaar – were realistic about the performances of the Sunwolves, who, according to one calculation, will have to travel 80,000km this season, and the Kings.
“It would be naive to say it wasn’t something we had our eye on very closely but everyone tends to focus on one or two teams in the competition rather than the whole thing in its totality,” he said.
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“Yes, the Sunwolves have had a slow start and yes they’ve taken time to get their coaching structure into place but on the flip side of that coin is that rugby in Japan is vastly improved. There is a huge amount of positive sentiment in Japan and the playing group.
“With the interventions that have taken place there [Kings], I’m confident they’re going to be a competitive outfit.
“I’m confident it will be a good year but also realistic enough to say there could be challenges.”
The Blues feature in the first match of the new competition when they host the champion Highlanders at Eden Park on Friday, February 26.