x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Former Springbok captain roots for Super Rugby in Dubai

The success of Dubai Sevens has prompted the South African to say southern hemisphere rugby should look to Dubai for expansion.

The Chiefs, who won the Super Rugby 15 title last month, could be a sight in Dubai. Michael Bradley / AFP
The Chiefs, who won the Super Rugby 15 title last month, could be a sight in Dubai. Michael Bradley / AFP

DUBAI // The success of the annual Dubai Rugby Sevens shows the city would be well-equipped to host an expansion franchise in Super Rugby.

That is the view of Bobby Skinstad, the former South Africa captain, who thinks the southern hemisphere’s leading club competition should look to put down roots in the Middle East.

“I genuinely think there should be [a team based in Dubai],” Skinstad said yesterday.

“Look at the Sevens and see how popular it is. You don’t need 50 games per year.

“With a Super Rugby franchise you might have six home games. It could be a colossal event, six times.”

South Africa has often looked to the UAE to expand its reach within rugby.

The Springboks tentatively discussed playing a Test on these shores against Ireland in the recent past, but it did not come to pass.

An independent group of Dubai-based, rugby-loving businessmen also explored the possibility of basing a new side, comprising mostly Pacific island and Australian players, here the last time Super Rugby expanded. That also failed to come to fruition.

The Durban-based Sharks franchise already have established links here, though.

They have put their name to the UAE Sharks academy, a finishing school for talented players here, and are also said to be considering playing an off-season fixture here.

“It is an overnight flight to South Africa,” said Skinstad, who captained the Springboks 12 times.

“To get to New Zealand you go through 14 different time zones.

“If there is a team out of Perth, the most isolated city on earth, there could be a team out of Dubai, one from South America, one from the States.

“It is not about expanding so there is more rugby, it is about expanding so there is more representation.”

pradley@thenational.ae