The United States has emerged as the latest threat on Australia’s Super Rugby stocks after Queensland Reds identical twins Ruan and JP Smith’s exit to play in Los Angeles next year.
The forwards will play for the Venice Beach-based LA Giltinis in their inaugural season from March next year in what will be the competition’s fourth instalment.
The USA Rugby-sanctioned competition has swollen to 13 teams split between two conferences, defying the governing body’s claim for bankruptcy earlier this year and significant behind-the-scenes dramas for a host of clubs after their third season was cut short by COVID-19.
The Giltinis are named after a yet-to-be released cocktail and owned by Australian Adam Gilchrist – a gym tycoon, not the cricketer – who also owns the Austin Gilronis.
The competition has already lured former Wallabies great Chris Latham, to coach Utah, while Stephen Hoiles is an assistant coach at LA and Drew Mitchell (New York) was poised to come out of retirement before the delay.
Springbok Tendai Mtawarira (Washington DC), All Black Ma’a Nonu (San Diego), France’s Mathieu Bastareaud (New York) have all featured while Matt Giteau and Adam Ashley-Cooper have been linked to the LA club run by former Wallabies hooker Adam Freier.
But the signing of the 30-year-old Smith twins shows there is interest among active, established Super Rugby players too.
And AAP understands more could follow them in a move that would put the privately owned United States competition alongside Europe and Japan as suitors for Australia’s best talent.
Ruan said playing in the USA was a “bucket-list thing” while his brother JP said “playing with a new club in one of the sporting capitals of the world has massive appeal”.
“Away from playing, I’m really interested in player development and coaching and I’d like to take any opportunity in that area in LA to help rugby keep growing in the local community,” JP Smith said.
The pair grew up in South Africa before moving to Australia, where they now boast citizenship and run a South African meat operation specialising in boerewors and biltong.
“JP and Ruan are both very good, experienced rugby players and popular off the field in their past teams,” Hoiles said.
“It’s a significant part of the way we’ve structured our squad that they will really help guys like Blake Rogers and Mafi Seanoa, two of our talented American props.”