Super Rugby not over yet, for a local franchise
Singapore may have lost out to Japan in the bid to become Sanzar Super Rugby's first Asian franchise, but there is hope that the Republic will enter the world's leading club rugby competition after 2020.
In a unique tie-up with the Singapore Rugby Union, the Sunwolves, the new team from Japan, will be playing the first of three "home" matches at the National Stadium on Saturday, and Sanzar operations manager Brendan Morris believes more top-class action could be headed for the continent after the current broadcasting deals end in 2020.
"Sanzar is very open about expansion in the future... our broadcast deals are locked in five-year cycles, but certainly we are very open to places like Hong Kong, and potentially even having it here in Singapore," said Morris, in an interview at the National Stadium.
Super Rugby was originally billed as a competition for the Southern Hemisphere nations, but broke the mould with the inclusion of a Japanese and Argentine franchise this year.
Morris acknowledged the decision was made to add the two new teams to break into new markets, and to tap on the broadcasting potential.
"It was reported that 25 million people watched the Rugby World Cup game between Japan and Samoa last year," said the Australian.
"We don't have those numbers in any of our current markets, so if this (Sunwolves' inclusion) is going to be successful, then we are really taking our brand of rugby and our franchise brands into massive new markets.
"Asia is a huge market for us."
Both the Sunwolves and the Cheetahs of South Africa will arrive today for their game on Saturday, and the Japanese team will be involved in community initiatives to build a rapport with Singapore fans.
"The conscious decision was not to come here for just one game; because you can't grow a fanbase and success with a hit-and-run mission.
"We want to give a long-term commitment to the Sports Hub, and the people of Singapore and South-east Asia, that we will have presence here for the next five years, at the minimum."
Aside from Super Rugby, Sanzar also organises the annual Rugby Championship, a Test series that involves the national sides of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina, taking each other on in a home-and-away format.
Morris says Sanzar is open to having countries like Singapore host Rugby Championship matches, but it would depend on the team that are hosting the particular match.
"Sanzar is very open minded about being approached by national franchises or unions to take (Rugby Championship) games offshore.
"We want to grow our game, so we encourage that as much as we can, but we can't dictate where matches will be played."