Super Rugby
New Zealand chief Steve Tew nervous for Sunwolves Super Rugby franchise
November 13, 2015
Japan's Ayumu Goromaru prepares to take a penalty, Scotland v Japan, Murrayfield Stadium, November 9, 2013
Japan's leading players such as Ayumu Goromaru have eschewed the Sunwolves © Getty Images

New Zealand Rugby chiefs remain concerned about the readiness of Japan's inaugural entry into Super Rugby after the competition was expanded to 18 teams, featuring franchises from Japan and Argentina and a sixth team in South Africa, the Port Elizabeth-based Kings.

NZ Rugby chief executive Steve Tew says Argentina seems to be set to provide a strong and well-organised franchise but he is worried about the state of Japan's Sunwolves.

His concerns follow a meeting of Sanzar executives in Sydney at which a Sunwolves representative outlined a lack of progress ahead of the season kick-off in late February.

"They have not announced a coach yet so that is clearly an issue and they have not got a playing roster completely full so they are the two issues they have to put their foot on the throttle for," Tew said.

"We are concerned about any expansion when you bring new teams into a competition and it takes a bit of time for it to bed down.

"On the upside it looks like the Argentinian side will be in very, very good shape. They've got a very strong playing roster and they might actually be a considerable worry."

The Kings, meanwhile, remain the subject of financial woes that mean players and staff were not paid in October. Franchise officials have attributed the problems to significant delays in the release of funds from a sponsorship deal. Two players, Tim Whitehead and Lizo Gqoboka, have given notice of their intent to leave the Kings, speculation continues to circulate that the franchise will see a player exodus.

The Sunwolves, Kings and Argentina will all play in the eight-team South African Group while five teams each from New Zealand and Australia will contest the Australasian Group.

Tew, meanwhile, reacted cautiously to recent comments from World Rugby chairman Bernard Lapasset, who said that Japan ideally would join the four-nation Rugby Championship following their bright World Cup showing.

Tew said the idea of Japan joining New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina in the annual tournament remained on a list of long-term objectives "but we remain pretty nervous about their readiness for Super Rugby, and that is their next step forward".


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