Super Rugby is set to be expanded in 2022 with the Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika granted conditional licences, New Zealand Rugby (NZR) announced on Wednesday.
In a significant step for Pacific Island rugby, the teams will join five Australian outfits and New Zealand’s five sides for the re-jigged competition.
While World Rugby last month pledged a $2.16 million annual package to offset costs, NZR said entry next year was still conditional on their final business plans and Rugby Australia’s (RA) support.
RA said on Wednesday it was “encouraged by the announcement” and looked forward to formalising the 2022 competition once the licences had final approval.
This year the two countries are holding domestic Super Rugby competitions, with a five-week Trans-Tasman crossover competition kicking off on May 14.
“We look forward to continuing our engagement with NZR on this process as we plan towards 2022,” said RA boss Andy Marinos.
“Once further conditions around the licences have been met, we look forward to formalising the composition of the teams in what will hopefully prove a new dawn for rugby in the region.”
NZR board member and former Manu Samoa and All Blacks legend Sir Michael Jones said the announcement was a significant milestone.
“We are now on the cusp of realising a long-held desire to include Pasifika in our professional game and the opportunity to embrace all that comes with that,” Jones said in a statement.
“With the approval of licences, Moana Pasifika and the Fijian Drua can now forge ahead with the final stages of their business plans and crucially start to lock in their playing and coaching rosters for next season.”
NZR chief executive Mark Robinson said they had confidence that Moana Pasifika and the Fijian Drua would be able to meet the conditions of the licence, which includes final sign-off on a sustainable business plan by 30 June.
Moana Pasifika played for the first time last December, against the Maori All Blacks in Hamilton.
Established in 2017, the Fijian Drua won Australia’s National Rugby Championship in 2018, in only their second year in the competition.