The main question is whether South Africa will replace Italy – many believe that won’t happen – and whether the Boks could potentially play in both the Six Nations and the Rugby League.
SANZAAR’s executive committee will meet next month to discuss the future of the joint venture after 2025, and the introduction of Japan and Fiji into the rugby league is still on the agenda.
But what is driving South Africa’s renewed efforts to sever ties with the south?
Don’t overlook their still-simmering anger at New Zealand and their infamous 2020 plan for the future of Super Rugby. Australia were unimpressed when offered two spots, but South Africa were given none. We hear that the wounds are still unhealed.
You know you’ve succeeded when a beer is named after you. 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 name and colors of the Drua. Drua interim managing director Brian Thorburn sealed the deal and flew to Sydney on Thursday with six cases of Drua beer in his luggage, so the team and VIPs could break some at the stadium CommBank.
Thorburn, who was once a trade ace for the ARU, has also struck deals with Coca-Cola – 4,000 Drua/Coke posters have been displayed in Fiji – and there are even trading cards handed out in supermarkets.
It has the potential to see Drua’s little-known players become as big as the beloved Fiji seven-man side, who are also based at home.
Rugby 15 has never enjoyed the same level of support in Fiji as star players are based overseas and have less visibility as they rarely play at home.
Fiji fan frenzy
The Waratahs play a home game at CommBank Stadium, but it probably won’t feel like it. Sydney-based Fiji fans are expected to be the dominant force, having bought masses of tickets to watch their first-ever Super Rugby game. Sydney has a giant Fijian community and the Drua introduced them to the game through social media communities, church groups and even families back in Fiji.
Luse Vula is one of many Fijians planning to be at the game, wearing the same blue wig she wore around the world after the Fiji sevens team.
“It’s unbelievable. We’ve waited 25 years so we’re all excited, the Fijian community, I’m sure this stadium is going to be filled with a lot of Fijian fans. I’m also a Waratahs fan but when the Drua came, I thought oh my God,” Vula said to Cauliflower.
“Once you start a trend with the Fijian community, everyone will follow. Islanders all like to stick together. Even for me, my ticket group booking went from 140 to 260. I haven’t got the tickets out yet! Everyone is trying to get their hands on tickets.“
It was at the Super Bowl All-Star Center at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles this week, and the crowd included local rugby royalty in the form of ex-Wallabies Matt Giteau and Adam Ashley-Cooper.
Both are members of LA Giltinis Rugby Club, which is owned by Aussie Adam Gilchrist (the founder of F45) and they even played at SoFi Stadium last year. Giteau is such an NFL maniac that we hear the chance of going to a Super Bowl was a huge factor in the 39-year-old’s decision to make the rounds for a final season for LA in 2022.
“It’s a bucket list day,” Giteau told Giltini’s traveling PR machine Jim Tucker.
The flight of players to the northern hemisphere is set to add a new dimension this year – some of Wallaroos’ best players are targeted to play in England’s thriving Premier 15s.
Skipper Grace Hamilton has been approached by several clubs and Iliseva Batibasaga is also targeted. And it is expected that there will be more names on the lost hit after the next Super W season. With many investments in women’s football in Europe, the seat of power has well and truly shifted to North. Re-shifting the betting markets for the World Cup later this year, England and France both beat New Zealand at the end of last year.
Mack Hansen isn’t the only underrated Canberra boy to score in Ireland. One of Ireland’s props is a beefy Canberran called Finlay Bealham, who went to St Edmunds and was chosen for the 2009 Australian Schoolboys. But with Brumbies academy showing no interest, nor any other team, Bealham went to Ireland for a trial in 2010 and never left. He made his debut for Ireland in 2016 and appeared in 17 Tests.
Hansen continued his incredible rise with a superb try against France in his second match. The Brumbies pointed out last week that they had offered Hansen a stay, but let’s just say there are conflicting versions of this story.
Queensland appears to be going through a mini COVID outbreak which has taken down James O’Connor, Brad Thorn, Tate McDermott and a few others in recent weeks. The Reds have mentioned a few times in the media that a trip to Sydney for some media functions at Nine/Stan studios was to blame, but talk among other clubs was that one of the Queenslanders had a distinct sniff while stepping into the plane to Brisbane.
When in Rome
Roma may have waited 90 minutes for the kick-off between the Waratahs and the Reds last weekend, due to an untimely power outage, but the event was a huge success, according to the chairman of Roma rugby player Richard Bright.
Every pub and motel room in the city was packed, and more than half of the city’s 6,000 residents were at the game at Gallas Fox Park, which has undergone a massive facelift thanks to a donation from Santos. Stands were trucked in from Adelaide for the trial. And more than one person told us about the great spectacle of Charlotte Caslick, Lewis Holland and Morgan Turinui playing barefoot with children on the pitch as the clock ticked down to midnight.
sons of arms
The Junior Wallabies team 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 set to resume in July.