The major question is whether South Africa replace Italy – many believe that won’t happen – and whether the Boks could potentially play in both the Six Nations and the Rugby Championship.
SANZAAR’s executive committee will meet next month to discuss the future of the joint venture post-2025, and the introduction of Japan and Fiji in the Rugby Championship is still firmly on the agenda.
But what is driving South Africa’s renewed efforts to cut ties with the south?
Don’t discount their still simmering anger at New Zealand and their infamous 2020 plan for the future of Super Rugby. Australia were not impressed when offered two spots, but South Africa didn’t get offered any. We hear the wounds have still not healed.
You know you’ve made it when a beer is named in your honour. The Fiji Drua will be able to drink their own beer after their first game against the Waratahs on Friday night after Paradise Beverages – the makers of Fiji Bitter – created a tinnie bearing the Drua’s name and colours. Interim Drua chief executive Brian Thorburn struck the deal and flew into Sydney on Thursday with six cases of Drua beer in his luggage, so the team and VIPs can crack a few at CommBank Stadium.
Thorburn, who used to be a commercial whiz for the ARU, has also struck deals with Coca-Cola – 4000 Drua/Coke posters have been put up around Fiji – and there’s even collectors cards being given away at supermarkets.
It has the potential to see the little-known Drua players become just as big as the beloved Fiji sevens team, who are based at home as well.
Fifteen-a-side rugby has never enjoyed that same level of support in Fiji because star players are based overseas and have less visibility because they rarely get to play at home.
Fiji fan frenzy
The Waratahs are playing a home game at CommBank Stadium but it probably won’t feel like it. Sydney-based Fiji fans are set to be the dominant force, having bought up masses of tickets to witness their first ever Super Rugby game. Sydney has a giant Fijian community and the Drua have been spruiking the game to them through social media communities, church groups and even via families back home in Fiji.
Luse Vula is one of the many Fijians who plan to be at the game, wearing the same blue wig she has worn around the world following the Fiji sevens team.
“It’s amazing. We have waited 25 years so we are all excited, the Fijian community, I am sure that stadium is going to be filled up with lots of Fiji supporters. I am also a Waratahs fan but when the Drua came in, I thought oh my gosh,” Vula told the Cauliflower.
“Once you start a trend with the Fijian community, everyone will follow. Islanders all like to stick together. Even for myself, my group booking of tickets has gone from 140 to 260. I am getting abuse because I haven’t got the tickets out yet! Everyone is trying to get their hands on tickets.”
It was all-star central at the Super Bowl at LA’s SoFi Stadium this week, and the crowd included some local rugby royalty in the form of ex-Wallabies Matt Giteau and Adam Ashley-Cooper.
Both are members of the LA Giltinis rugby club, which is owned by Aussie Adam Gilchrist (the F45 founder) and they even played at SoFi Stadium last year. Giteau is such an NFL nut we hear the chance to go to a Super Bowl was a very big factor in the 39-year-old deciding to go around for one last season for LA in 2022.
“It’s a bucket list day,” Giteau told the Giltini’s roaming PR machine Jim Tucker.
The player drain to the northern hemisphere is set to add a new dimension this year – some of the best Wallaroos players are being targeted to play in the thriving English premiership, the Premier 15s.
Skipper Grace Hamilton has been approached by a number of clubs and Iliseva Batibasaga is also being targeted. And there are expected to be more names on the hit lost after the upcoming Super W season. With plenty of investment in the women’s game in Europe, the seat of power has well and truly moved north. Re-shifting the betting markets for the World Cup later this year, England and France both thumped New Zealand late last year.
Mack Hansen isn’t the only under-appreciated Canberra boy kicking goals in Ireland. One of Ireland’s props is a burly Canberran called Finlay Bealham, who went to St Edmunds and was picked for the 2009 Australian Schoolboys. But with the Brumbies academy showing no interest, nor any other team, Bealham went to Ireland for a trial in 2010 and never left. He debuted for Ireland in 2016 and has played 17 Tests.
Hansen continued his amazing rise with a stunning try against France in his second game. The Brumbies stressed last week they made Hansen an offer to stay but let’s just say there are conflicting versions of that story.
Queensland appear to be through a mini-COVID outbreak that took down James O’Connor, Brad Thorn, Tate McDermott and a few others in recent weeks. The Reds mentioned a few times in media that a trip to Sydney for some media duties at the Nine/Stan studios was to blame but talk among other clubs was that one of the Queenslanders had a distinct sniffle when getting on the plane in Brisbane.
When in Roma
Roma may have had a 90-minute wait for kick-off between the Waratahs and Reds last weekend, due to an untimely blackout, but the event was a huge success, according to Roma rugby president Richard Bright.
Every pub and motel room in town was packed and more than half the town’s 6000 population was at the game at Gallas Fox Park, which underwent a massive facelift with the help of a donation from Santos. Stands were trucked in from Adelaide for the trial. And more than one person told us about the great sight of Charlotte Caslick, Lewis Holland and Morgan Turinui playing barefoot touch with kids on the field as the clock neared midnight.
Sons of Guns
The Junior Wallabies squad named by coach Nathan Gray this week had some familiar names in the mix: Tom Lynagh (son of Michael), Jack Bowen (son of Scott) and Teddy Wilson (son of David). The Oceania Junior Championships are hoping to get going again in July.