Rugby: Pacific Island franchise frustrated by 'shady' Super Rugby bidding process

A Pacific Island venture is upset that they've been left out of next year's Super Rugby competition.

New Zealand Rugby has announced it will stick with the five-team Super Rugby Aotearoa competition next year, with the addition of a trans-Tasman crossover finals series.

NZ Rugby had expressed interest in adding a Pacific Islands-based team and received bids from several interested parties, including one from Kanaloa Pacifica, which is backed by former All Blacks Jerome Kaino and Joe Rokocoko.

But despite those indications, no licences will be issued to any of the Pacific teams bidding for Super Rugby inclusion next year, with NZ Rugby claiming none of the applicants were prepared enough to be added to the fold.

But Kanaloa Pacifica chief executive Tracy Atiga is adamant that her team would have been ready to go in 2021.

"We've got a facility and stadiums, it's just a matter of getting the big tick to go ahead," Atiga tells Newshub.

Those developments have come as a major disappointment to Atiga, who's been left frustrated by a "challenging" bidding process.

"What we need is something in writing that says a five-year licence, so our investor groups and our sponsors can say 'great we're on board'," she says.

"The bidding process was difficult because we only had an eight-day turnaround to put together a bid."

Five other franchises had been vying for a spot alongside Kanaloa Pacifica, and Atiga is still unsure where they stand.

"During the eight weeks we've been negotiating back and forth, I don't think there's been much transparency around which group progressed and which group hasn't.

"From what we know we've all progressed, and that's a bit of a strange one for a tender bid. Usually you find out halfway through whether you're a preferred provider or not and then you have a bit more leverage to work with the group, but that hasn't happened in this case.

"It's been shady and secretive between us and them."

NZ Rugby wants to add three teams from 2022 and there are four contenders: a pacific team, Fijian Drua, A south China Lions team based in the Bay of Plenty, the Western Force, backed by West Australian billionaire Andrew Forrest. 

Forrest's expression of interest would appear to be a major coup for NZR in their ongoing trans-Tasman war with Rugby Australia. 

But waiting until 2022 is not an option for Kanaloa. 

 "If NZR are serious they'll issue a licence… now or never."

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