Johannesburg – Japan and Singapore will vie for last berth in Super Rugby when the competition grows to 18 teams in 2016, Sanzar said on Wednesday.
“We are now able to confirm that two parties from Asia will compete for the opportunity to join an expanded Super Rugby competition in 2016,” Sanzar chief executive Greg Peters said in the statement.
“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.”
The two contenders have until mid-August to submit formal tender documents to Sanzar Ä the body which governs Super Rugby – outlining why they are best-positioned to join the world's premier international provincial rugby competition.
According to Peters, Sanzar created a shortlist of candidates that best met the criteria required to successfully run a Super Rugby franchise, after several Asian nations had expressed their desire to be included in the tournament.
A decision on the 18th franchise would be announced by the end of October.
“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,” Peters said.
“Each bid has the support of the respective national unions and includes other interested parties who will provide commercial and business support required for a venture of this nature.”
The return of the Kings from the Eastern Cape and a team based in Argentina had already been confirmed by Sanzar when the expanded format – from 15 to 18 teams – was announced in May. – Sapa