TODAY |

Opinion: Create a new Super Rugby franchise called the Pacific Pioneers and base it in Fiji

Encouraging signs have emerged in the last week that a Pacific Super Rugby franchise could in fact be a probability rather than possibility.

The Crusaders will unleash giant Fijian winger Nemani Nadolo in the 2014 Super Rugby season. Source: 1 Sport

The idea itself has been floated many times but dissipated amongst logistical and financial factors and perhaps a reluctance on the New Zealand Rugby Union's part to support something that could affect the local stable.

Why is it more likely now than before?

The 2016 Super Rugby expansion was always going to happen but as SANZAR head Andy Marinos said, the competition has never had a strategic plan. What the?

More teams was always going to eventuate but where and at what cost to the integral piece of the puzzle that often gets missed for money – the rugby on the field.

The Southern Kings have been unbelievably lacklustre and the depressing sight of 98 per cent of their stadium empty for the match with the defending champions is proof they have been a failure.

The Chiefs flyer has confirmed he will play for Samoa at the Rugby World Cup, and wants to represent them at the Olympics sevens. Source: 1 NEWS

They've been a blight on the competition and have to go.

In time, South Africa might be able to field a sixth team, but not now, not even close.

Potentially, the all-round strength of the Kiwi teams and nursery procession of top players could also make a Pacific team a likelihood as the threat isn't so pronounced.

The NZRU are pretty comfortable in their own shoes right about now.

For this exercise, I call the team the Pacific Pioneers, based predominantly out of Fiji for the infrastructure that already exists.

Friday night's game between the Chiefs and Crusaders showed Suva could put on a Super Rugby show and well. 

Out of eight home games, two could be played in Apia, one in Nuku'alofa. Pacific hot spots Auckland and West Sydney could also hosts games.

Package it right and when Australasian teams visit, the game is all part of the holiday. 

Who would be in the team?

Money matters and infrastructure aside, could a Pacific team be competitive? The trial and success of the combined International team in 2004 said so.

Without delving into the backroom viability, how would a team made up of predominantly Pacific Island players go as their own entity?

Done correctly, much better than the Kings and arguably better than the Sunwolves, Jaguares, Cheetahs, Force and Reds.

Simon Hickey of Auckland  is tackled by Alex Hodgman of Canterbury during the ITM Cup Premiership Final rugby match, Canterbury V Auckland, at AMI Stadium, Christchurch, on the 24th October 2015. Copyright Photo: John Davidson / www.photosport.nz
Alex Hodgman makes a tackle. Source: Photosport

Having some fun with current players, how would this team go?

Nemani Nadolo would take the team forward into their first season and selections for this purpose have been made by picking those who sit behind incumbents at their current franchises, ie Alex Hodgman, those who may want to kick start the franchise and a couple of marquee local signings ie Leone Nakarawa.

Time would tell but perhaps the countless Pacific Island players based in Europe might see Super Rugby attractive again if they don't have to wait behind All Blacks?

Pacific Pioneers: 15-Melani Nanai, 14-Tim Nanai-Williams 13-Vereniki Goneva, 12-Ngani Laumape, 11-Nemani Nadolo (c), 10-Ben Volavola, 9-Samisoni Fisilau, 8-Greg Foe, 7-Jack Ram, 6-Naulia Dawai, 5-Faatiga Lemalu, 4-Leone Nakarawa, 3-Alex Hodgman, 2-Motu Matu'u, 1-Sam Aiono.

Substitutes: 16-Leni Apisai, 17-Siegfried Fisiihoi, 18-Loni Uhila, 19-Nemia Soqeta, 20-Pete Samu, 21-TJ Va'a, 22-Robbie Fruean, 23-Latu Vaeno.
Coach: Mahonri Schwalger