Super15 picks up mystery team bidder

Seven groups from three Australian states tendered bids to join an expanded rugby Super 15 by Wednesday’s deadline in the first phase of the expansion process.


Another surprise bid came from Hawke’s Bay in New Zealand.


Three consortia from Victoria, two from New South Wales and two from Queensland, including an unexpected seventh bidder, lodged expressions of interest with the Australian Rugby Union.


Bids came from the Victorian Rugby Union, from a breakaway group of former VRU board members and from a group allied to the Melbourne Victory A-League football franchise.


There were Super 15 expressions of interest from West Sydney and New South Wales country, from Queensland’s Gold Coast and from another unexpected Queensland source.


An ARU spokesman said confidentiality agreements prevented their identification, including the surprise Queensland bid.


The ARU will assess the bids over the next two weeks before inviting formal applications from approved bidders on Aug. 7.


Formal bids must be submitted to the ARU by Sept. 18 and the successful franchise, which will join the expanded Super 15 from 2011, will be announced by tournament organizer Sanzar on Oct. 31.


The New Zealand and South African rugby unions will also vet local bids before passing them to Sanzar for its final determination.


Hawke’s Bay is part of the Wellington Hurricanes Super Rugby franchise but said it was confident it had the players, stadia and financial resources to operate independently.


“We are going to have a go,” Hawke’s Bay chief executive Mike Bishop said.


“Whether we will be successful we don’t know, but we think we have the wherewithal to meet the criteria and think it would be enormous for rugby in our region.


“We obviously believe there is room (for a sixth New Zealand franchise). Rugby is thriving in our region and we want to give (our fans) the opportunity to see Super Rugby locally.”


It is not yet known whether the Southern Kings from South African submitted an expression of interest.

 

The New Zealand Rugby Union said Thursday it had received Super 15 bids from Hawke’s Bay and Taranaki and expressed skepticism over New Zealand’s ability to sustain a sixth franchise.

 

New Zealand and South African now have five Super Rugby teams and Australia four.

 

“We have said publicly that there is a big question mark over New Zealand’s capacity to sustain and achieve success with more than the five Super Rugby franchises, so that will have a bearing on our considerations,” NZRU chief executive Steve Tew said Thursday.

 

“We will now be asking Hawke’s Bay and Taranaki to provide us with very detailed business cases relating to the long-term sustainability of their bids.”

 

Hawke’s Bay chief executive Mike Bishop said he was confident his province had the players, facilities and financial resources to sustain a franchise.

 

“We have the wherewithal to meet the criteria and think it would be enormous for rugby in our region,” he said.

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