Asian team to join Super Rugby
Super Rugby have announced a team from either Japan or Singapore will be added to the southern hemisphere’s premier club rugby competition from 2016.
Governing body SANZAR had previously confirmed the additions of an Argentinian franchise and a sixth from South Africa, with these also coming in 2016.
Super Rugby is currently made up of 15 teams with five each from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa but this expansion will see the total number grow to 18 from 2016.
SANZAR chief executive Greg Peters believes expansion into Asia is the logical next step in order for Super Rugby to continue to grow.
"Asia is a region that has been the focus of considerable investment by the International Rugby Board in recent years and is a strategically sound location for the evolution of Super Rugby," Peters said.
"We were happy with the number of responses received, however the two stand-out expressions of interest that were most attractive to the SANZAR Unions were received from Japan and Singapore."
The two bidders now have until the middle of August to submit formal tenders, which will be assessed according to commercial value, infrastructure, geographic location, rugby readiness and ongoing sustainability.
The addition of the three new franchises will see Super Rugby grow from the current format of three conferences - one in each existing country - to four.
While the Australian and New Zealand conferences will continue to be made up by their five existing teams, the South African conference will be split into two, with the Argentinian team slotting into the first pool and the Asian side slotting into the second.
Each team will play 15 games and have two byes across a 17-week regular season.
Asia has long been a lucrative destination for high-profile southern hemisphere players with decorated internationals such as George Gregan, George Smith, Stephen Larkham, Ma'a Nonu, Sonny Bill Williams and Fourie du Preez just some of the big names to have played there.