The Melbourne Rebels are looking to leverage off the World Cup success of the Wallabies and the failing of England when the new Super Rugby season gets underway.
With new owners and new naming rights sponsors in Land Rover, the Rebels are aiming to crack their first Super finals berth after finishing 10th in 2015.
New majority owner Andrew Cox, who has taken over from chief executive Peter Leahy, said the Rebels were in good shape to turn around the financial woes that saw them lose over $1 million last year.
Cox said membership was booming after the club offered members an earlybird special for tickets to the Melbourne Test of the Australia-England series in June following the Wallabies’ elimination of the World Cup hosts earlier this month.
“We are already significantly ahead on our membership numbers than we were anticipating at this time and a certain amount of that is being driven by the English Test,” Cox said.
“The opportunity to get Test tickets finishes on October 31 … but the way it’s tracking there’s a high probability we will have to close off that offer early.”
The Rebels will be the first Australian team to take on the Sunwolves – Japan’s new Super Rugby entry who are based in Tokyo.
Cox hoped Japan’s World Cup success – beating South Africa in a pool game – would transfer as interest in their new Super side.
“I think you had circa 20 million people watching their game which I believe doubled for the last game; it’s an incredible amount of people so it’s exciting for us to be going there.”
Rebels coach Tony McGahan said he was looking forward to getting their Super Rugby pre-season started next month.
McGahan was thankful his team wouldn’t face the new Argentine Super Rugby team until 2017, with the still-be-named Buenos Aires side in a difference conference.
The former Wallabies assistant was impressed by the World Cup showing of the Pumas, who Australia face in the semi-final.
“They’ve been terrific and them playing Australia, South Africa and New Zealand over the last few years has put them in a great position to compete,” McGahan said.
“Their game has changed dramatically and it’s a credit to Argentina rugby and they’re going to be a real force next year in the Super Rugby competition.”