Tier 2, Super Rugby and the National Rugby Championship

super rugbyThe penultimate week of the Rugby World Cup (RWC) is upon us and if there is one inarguable truth that can be taken out of the 2015 tournament and that is the closing of the gap. The gap between the tier 1 nations (10 teams) and the chasing tier 2 nations (13 teams).

Since round one, Japan’s performances have been the story of the RWC, Fiji have overcome some poor form in recent years, Georgia have improved by leaps and bounds and the days of 100+ point wins are evidently over.

World Rugby has made it clear that lifting the level of the tier 2 nations is a priority, pumping funds into the 13 tier 2 nations, however more and more players from these minnow nations are starting to ply their trade in traditional powerhouse competitions.

There is no better example of this than the Top 14 in France, which is filled with Eastern European and Pacific Nation players. The Aviva Premiership is also fast becoming a 2nd and 3rd tier training paddock, with 52 players representing countries like Moldova, Namibia and Russia and just about anywhere else that plays rugby. If you would like to see the sheer number of these players and what they are up to, check out this article: Tier 2 and the Premiership.

With a large amount of Super Rugby squads unannounced for the 2016 season, I thought I would take a look at which minnows held squad spots in 2015 and which players actually received time on the paddock.

Australian Conference: 

ACT Brumbies (1)

Ita Vaea (Tonga) – Loose Forward- Regular starter

Melbourne Rebels (3)

Safanaia Naivalu (Fiji) – Winger/Centre – Regular starter apart from injury
Telusa Veainu (Tonga) – Winger – Occasional bench player
Keita Inagaki (Japan) – Prop – Rare bench player

Ben Volavola of the Waratahs will join the Crusaders in 2016
Ben Volavola of the Waratahs will join the Crusaders in 2016

NSW Waratahs (1)

Ben Volavola (Fiji) – Fullback/Flyhalf – Occasional starts and bench in recent years

Queensland Reds (2)

Jamie-Jerry Tuilagi (Tonga) – Fullback – Occasional bench player
Hendrik Tui (Japan) – No. 8 – Occasional bench player

Western Force (2)

Steve Mafi (Tonga) – Second Row – Regular starter
Akihito Yamada (Japan) – Winger – No game time

New Zealand Conference: 

Blues (3)

Airi Hunt (Samoa) – No. 8 –Rare bench player
Melani Nanai (Samoa) – Winger – Regular starter
Jack Ram (Tonga) – Flanker – Occasional bench player

Chiefs (5)

Michael Leitch has gained some valuable experiences after leading the Japanese side to a historic Rugby World Cup in 2015
Michael Leitch has gained some valuable experiences after leading the Japanese side to a historic Rugby World Cup in 2015

Siate Tokolahi (Tonga) – Prop – Regular bench player
Michael Leitch (Japan Captain) – Back Row – Regular starter
Setu Tamanivalu (Fiji) – Outside Center – Regular starter
Tim Nanai-Williams (Samoa) – Outside back – Regular starter
Toni Pulu (USA born, Niuean heritage) – Winger – Uncapped

Crusaders (2)

Nemani Nadolo (Fiji) – Winger – Regular starter
Jone Macilai-Tori (Fiji) – Winger – Rare bench player

Highlanders (4)        

Patrick Osborne (Fiji) – Winger –Regular starter
Ma’afu Fia (Tonga) – Prop –  Occasional bench player
Pingi Tala’apitaga (Samoa) – Prop – Occasional bench player
Fumiaka Tanaka (Japan) – Half Back –  Regular bench player

Hurricanes (2)

Motu Matu’u (Samoa) – Hooker – Regular starter/ bench player
Ray Lee-Lo (Samoa) – Centre – Regular bench player

South African Conference:

Lions, Bulls & Stormers (0)

Cheetahs (2)

Torsten van Jaarsveld (Namibia) – Hooker – Regular starter
Danie Dames (Namibia) – Winger – 1 cap off the bench

Sharks (2)

Renaldo Bothma (on loan – Namibia) – No. 8 – Regular starter
Paul Perez (Samoa) – Wing – Uncapped

Southern Kings (2) – Last played in the 2013 season, returning in 2016

Jaco Engels (Namibia) – Prop – Occasional bench player
Daniel Adongo (Kenya) – Second Row/ Flanker – Occasional bench player

The Sunwolves will join the Super Rugby in 2016 as the first team based in Asia (Japan) to enter the competition.
The Sunwolves will join the Super Rugby in 2016 as the first team based in Asia (Japan) to enter the competition.

With the introduction of the Japenese Sunwolves and the Argentinian Super Rugby side, in conjunction with the return of the Southern Kings, the quantity of 2nd tier players in arguably the worlds toughest competition are set to sky rocket.

The northern hemisphere competitions seem to be the major drawing card for these players in recent years. A number of players have featured in the first two rounds of the Aviva Premiership, check out their results and participations here.
Watch this space for more southern hemisphere and tier 2 news as I will try to keep you up to date.

Written by Nelson Dale

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s