Cape Town - New SANZAR CEO Andy Marinos has backed South Africa's Kings and Japan's Sunwolves to cause upsets in Super Rugby 2016.
The Kings have at least played a season of Super Rugby before, while the Sunwolves are making their debut as the competition expands to accommodate a side each from Japan and Argentina as well as an extra South African side.
The Kings' serious financial troubles over the past few months have raised questions over their participation in the competition, but the Sunwolves have not yet named a head coach for the season while they also do not have a full player roster.
But Marinos was a voice of calm on Wednesday morning, backing the Japanese franchise to get their ducks in a row before the tournament begins at the end of February.
"I am confident that we will have a side from Japan in Super Rugby," the former Wales and Western Province centre said.
"They’ve got a core group of players that are contracted … Japanese players that were represented in the World Cup. Their biggest challenge at this point in time is just finalising their head coach, which has been a challenge for a number of the Super Rugby franchises of late.
"We anticipate that’s going to be in the next week or two, and then obviously there’s a number of players who are waiting to understand who their coach is before they commit."
The latest figure was that the Sunwolves currently have "24 or 25" players on their books.
There is less concern over the integration of the Argentinean franchise given how well the national side performed at the 2015 World Cup, but they have yet to launch their brand.
SANZAR confirmed that the Argentine Rugby Union were expected to unveil the franchise in early December, while they were having fewer problems in terms of personnel.
Another concern over the tournament's expansion is that the reach to Japan, and the re-inclusion of the Kings, would dilute the quality of the rugby on offer.
"It’s not dissimilar to what we’ve seen over the last few years when we had the Rebels coming in and then the Kings and the Lions and the Force … the uniqueness with Super Rugby, what we have seen, is that every year there is a surprise team that comes up," said Marinos.
"Overall the standard has been really high. I certainly don’t see many challenges coming out of Argentina.
"With the Kings and Japan it is a hell of a lot of the unknown … how they’re going to adapt, especially the Japanese, to the schedule and the travel.
"But I’ve learnt one thing with rugby and you can never write off teams before the competition has begun. I have no doubt that any one of those teams, even if they don’t start the season off well, would have a huge upset at some stage."
Marinos officially begins his second tenure as CEO of SANZAR on January 1, 2016.