Saru to fight for sixth franchise

Acting Saru MD Andy Marinos wants the new Eastern Cape franchise to join the expanded Super Rugby competition in 2011.

Australia Rugby Union chief John O’Neill is adamant the 15th franchise will be awarded to Australia, and at this stage Melbourne looks the strongest candidate to host the new team. O’Neill believes the franchise will comprise Aussies playing abroad, converted league players and others from the pacific islands.

O’Neill also told the press last week it makes sense for the 15th franchise to go to Australia since Australia, who currently have four franchises, need one more team to make up their conference in a revised competition structure. According to O’Neill, it would be difficult to accommodate another South African or New Zealander side given the problems of travel.

Marinos told Sondag Saru refuse to be dictated to, and that the decision is far from being made. Saru president Regan Hoskins also told in a recent interview that the Eastern Cape franchise is a priority and they hope to have the side integrated in Super Rugby by 2011 – 2012 at the latest.

Hoskins believes there is enough talent in the area and enough quality throughout the country to ensure this franchise flourishes. Eastern Province president Cheeky Watson believes the same cannot be said for Australia and a fifth franchise in that country is just not viable.

The new Eastern Cape franchise will be launched on 16 June when the British & Irish Lions play a tour match in Port Elizabeth. This Coastal XV side is likely to comprise players originally hailing from the Eastern Cape.

Watson denied the new franchise would be exclusively black and said that while the majority of the squad would be locals, they may look to other provinces for players.