ABs test for Invercargill?


A BOLD bid to bring an All Blacks test match to Invercargill in 2020 is brewing.

Various Southland leaders have been investigating what it would take to lure an All Blacks test match to Rugby Park in Invercargill for the first time.

It is understood an All Blacks test against Scotland or Argentina in 2020 was viewed as a possibility for Southland.

Argentina played at Rugby Park in 2011 when it took on Romania as part of the Rugby World Cup.

The idea of trying to host an All Blacks test match in Southland was initially planted by Invercargill Licensing Trust board member Sean Bellew, and it was Mr Bellew who kicked off the discussions.

At this stage of the process Mr Bellew said he was not representing the ILT, but instead was just an ‘enthusiastic Southlander’ trying to get the ball rolling.

Rugby Southland general manager Brian Hopley was also now involved in the discussion.

“I believe Southland can host a test match. We can make this happen,” Mr Bellew said.

At the moment a small working group was investigating the feasibility of striking a deal with New Zealand Rugby before the prospect was put to potential funders.

Just how much it would cost Southland was still being firmed up, Mr Bellew said.

“It would be much bigger than just footy,” he said about the potential to create a festival for Southland around a test match.

Venture Southland was expected to also play a role in putting a bid to New Zealand Rugby.

An All Blacks test in Invercargill would arguably be the biggest sporting event ever to be staged in Southland.

Venture Southland chief executive Paul Casson told the Southland Expresshis organisation was keen to be involved.

He said it would take a collaborative effort from many different parties in Southland to get an event as big as an All Blacks test to the province.

The process of trying to secure an All Blacks test would be similar to when Southland lured a Joseph Parker boxing bout to ILT Stadium Southland in 2015, Mr Casson said.

The Invercargill Licensing Trust, Community Trust of Southland, Venture Southland and the Invercargill City Council teamed up to put a $200,000 bid to promoters Duco Events to get the Parker fight in Invercargill.

“We are very keen to be involved,” Mr Casson said.

“That is what we are here to do, to help demonstrate Southland can do a good job in hosting these events.”

He pointed to the success of the World Shearing Championships as an example of what Southland could do in making an event a success.

Mr Casson believed attracting events to Southland was important because of the economic spin-off and also the exposure they provided for the region.

The All Blacks test schedule has grown over the years, which has prompted New Zealand Rugby to look outside the bigger centres – Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin – when allocating home test matches.

New Plymouth has previously hosted All Blacks tests and this year the All Blacks will play Argentina in Nelson as part of the Rugby Championship.

New Zealand Rugby general manager for planning and operations Nigel Cass last year sent out an email asking for expressions of interest for hosting major matches.

As a result the Tasman Rugby Union, Nelson Regional Development Agency and Nelson City Council teamed up to put together a bid. Nelson has also been able to get private investors on board to secure the All Blacks test in September.

“If Nelson can do it, we can do it,” Mr Bellew said.

Temporary seating at Rugby Park could boost the ground capacity to over 20,000, which would help ensure a test match in Invercargill was a viable prospect for New Zealand Rugby.

Venture Southland previously stated a case to New Zealand Rugby in an attempt to stage the national under-19 tournament in Invercargill.

However, it seemed the travel costs for many teams counted against Invercargill.

Sixteen teams from throughout the country converge on one city for the under-19 tournament, resulting in an influx of people.

Taupo is hosting this year’s under-19 tournament.

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