The Waratahs hope to play Fiji in an extra pre-season trial match next year now that SANZAR has rejected a proposal to hold a six-team finals series, meaning that the Super 14 season will start one week later.
If the six-team finals concept had been adopted, next season would have started on Friday, February 6 – but with SANZAR sticking with a four-team series, round one is set to be scheduled for February 13, 14, and 15. That will allow Super 14 sides to accommodate three trial matches, not two, as was originally planned.
The Waratahs hope to confirm in the next day or two that their first trial will be against the Fijian Warriors – a Fijian selection without their European-based players – followed by Queensland and then the Brumbies.
NSW Rugby Union chief executive Jim L’Estrange said the NSWRU was also trying to lock in that trial match on or around the weekend of January 24-25 at a venue outside of Sydney, such as at Newcastle or on the Central Coast.
It is hoped the Waratahs will then play the Reds in Brisbane on January 29, 30 or 31, and the Brumbies on February 6 or 7 in Sydney at the SFS before their Super 14 season opener against the Hurricanes in Wellington.
Neither NSW nor the Fijian side will have their top stars for the trial, so the game would echo a match on October 11 in Lautoka, when the Junior Waratahs defeated the Warriors 14-11.
"It is like a home and away with the team we played in [our] Fijian tour," L’Estrange said yesterday as the Waratahs started training for the 2009 season. "It will be a development tour for them as much as for us without our Wallabies."
L’Estrange said NSW supported the proposal for a six-team finals series, although it would have seen the Waratahs making two regular-season trips to South Africa, starting with round one against the Lions in Johannesburg.
"I thought the six-team semis makes sense, and we will prepare to do what have to to do that," he said. "If that meant flying to South Africa twice we were prepared to so."
In other news, the NSWRU has lost Samsung as a sponsor. The group signed for one year only as sponsor of NSW community rugby and it is thought it wanted a greater exposure as a major sponsor and has gone elsewhere.
The NSWRU is still negotiating with Coca-Cola, although if that deal falls through it is understood that Mazda will upgrade its backing. Furthermore, IBM has also re-signed as a sponsor and HSBC’s contract with the NSWRU runs to the end of 2011.
– It is understood former Wallabies five-eighth and Eastern Suburbs first grade coach Scott Bowen will join the NSWRU as its new high-performance director, replacing Tony D’Arcy, who left after last season. The NSWRU board yesterday voted Ed Zemancheff as its new chairman in place of Arvid Petersen, whose three-year term has ended.