Incoming SANZAR CEO Andy Marinos has no doubt Japanese team, the Sunwolves, will feature in the 2016 Super Rugby competition.
Marinos, who takes over the SANZAR post on January 1, said the side had already contracted roughly 25 players and anticipated more would be forthcoming with the looming announcement of a head coach.
“There’s a core group of players that are contracted…obviously the biggest challenge at this point in time is just finalising the head coach,” he said.
“We anticipate that’s going to be in a week or two and obviously there’s going to be players that are waiting to see who their coach is before they commit.
“There’s a core group of guys that are here and we expect to see a lot more traction in the next week or two.”
He had no such concerns over the Argentinian franchise, who are expected to announce their team name and branding in the first week of December.
With their squad set to include many of their World Cup team that made the tournament’s semi-final, Marinos said they would loom as an early threat.
‘I don’t see any challenges coming out of Argentina,” he said.
“Everyone’s sort of holding their breath and saying, ‘Gee if it’s the same group of guys that were coming through the World Cup into this, it’s going to be a very difficult and very tough team that you’re going to be playing,’.”
While adaptation might be more difficult for the Japanese team, Marinos said he was optimistic about their 2016 potential.
“With the Kings and Japan, it’s a hell of a lot of the unknown,” he said.
“In saying that I’ve learned one thing in rugby, you can never start writing off teams before the actual competition gets underway.
“I have no doubt that any of those teams that may not start the season off well, will have a huge upset in their ranks at some stage.”
The new competition structure sees teams play one fewer match than in previous years and also fewer long-haul flights, in a bid to combat burnout concerns.
With a number of players using sabbaticals to play in Japan, Marinos said welfare would be an ongoing issue in the competition.
“Player burnout has always been the biggest elephant in the room in the evolution of Super Rugby... and the biggest factor of that has been travel,” he said.
“Time on the road and long haul flights have been reduced but in saying that, it still is very much an issue
“I don’t think that continually having players in Japan in the off-season is really helping that cause because the guys aren’t getting a proper break.
“Welfare is an issue and one we’re trying to manage through the competition evolution.”