Super Rugby: Officials expect to cope better with challenges in 2017 season

Sanzaar chief executive officer Andy Marinos talks about the 2017 Super Rugby season, in which Singapore's adopted team Sunwolves will play three matches at the Singapore Sports Hub.
Sanzaar chief executive officer Andy Marinos talks about the 2017 Super Rugby season, in which Singapore's adopted team Sunwolves will play three matches at the Singapore Sports Hub. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

SINGAPORE - The challenge of running an 18-team league across four continents will remain for Super Rugby in 2017, but officials expect to cope better with it, having picked up lessons from the past season.

Andy Marinos, chief executive officer of South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina Rugby (Sanzaar), said his team have had more time to plan as optimal a draw as possible, while also managing the travel schedules more ideally.

Super Rugby will begin its second season as an 18-team competition this year, having added three teams to its roster last year.

Said Marinos, who met with members of the media in Singapore to discuss the upcoming season: "Logistically, last season presented quite a few challenges. Our biggest challenge is the geographical expanse in this competition.

"We're working on what we believe is a much better draw. The teams will still have to travel - that's not going to change, but we've had some key learnings out of 2016 that we can implement into 2017 around how we manage the players during the week and how we work the travel schedule."

The South African also defended newcomers Sunwolves' performance, after a tough debut season in which they won just one game, drew another and lost 13. The Sunwolves are co-based in Japan and Singapore.

Said Marinos: "Put it into context. This is arguably the toughest rugby competition in the world. The Sunwolves surprised all of us in term of quality of performance and the brand of rugby they played. It's going to take some time - two to three years - for them to get used to the intensity of this competition.

"They did really well, won a lot of new fans, and played an entertaining and exciting brand of rugby."

The Sunwolves are slated to play three home games against South African sides at the National Stadium this season, beginning with a March 4 clash with the Southern Kings. They will also play the Stormers (March 25) and Sharks (May 20). Tickets are available at Sports Hub Tix.