Tasman to undertake Summer American tour
Tim O-Connell - Nelson mail
The frontrunning Tasman Mako rugby team have landed a tour of the United States.
The current Mitre 10 Cup premiership leaders will play two games, against American Major League Rugby champions the Seattle Seawolves and the Houston SaberCats, in January next year.
The Tasman team to travel to the States will be selected in October and will be made up of contracted Tasman players who do not have Super contracts - as well as Tasman B and U19 players.
All Black Tim Perry will be the tour captain for the trip.
Tasman Rugby Union chief executive Tony Lewis said the invitation to play in America was extended earlier this year by managing director of New Zealand sporting rights company FHG Limited Warren Goddard.
"It took the board about five minutes to make their minds up and say we'd love to go," Lewis said.
"It's a one-off at this stage but from our perspective it's a a unique opportunity not only for the Tasman Mako region to showcase our rugby talent, but also for the region's exporters to promote themselves in these two markets and maybe look at a bit of a partnership."
A former Crusaders' commercial manager and part-owner of the Highlanders, in 2018 Goddard brokered a deal between the Crusaders and Canterbury Rugby Football Union in purchasing minority ownership of Seattle Seawolves.
While the tour was yet to be officially sanctioned by NZ Rugby, finer details had been organised in the last month between TRU and the Mako's Houston and Seattle hosts, before the itinerary was finally announced this week.
The Seawolves website acknowledged the Mako will "provide a dynamic test with their speed of play for the Seattle Seawolves heading into their third season and another chance to defend their title." The Seattle exhibition game will be played on January 26 at the Starfire Stadium.
As with many overseas rugby competitions, a number of New Zealanders ply their trade in the nine-team United States Major League competition - including current Mako squad member Tim O'Malley who played for the Utah Warriors last season.
A recent Tasman link to the Houston SabreCats' is South African-born player Liam Andrews, who played for Stoke in 2016 and turned out for the Texas-based side in 2018 and 2019.