Live Super Rugby will be returning to our TV screens – and rugby fields in New Zealand – after New Zealand Rugby announced fixture details of their domestic competition to run this year.
Super Rugby Aoteroa will kick off on Saturday, June 13, with two games per weekend – one at 3:05pm (AEST) each Saturday, the other at 1:05pm each Sunday – played over a ten-week season contested between the five New Zealand franchises.
The June start date will give the sides four full weeks of training to get back up to speed after a two-month intermission.
The Highlanders and Chiefs will play the first match on the 13th, followed by the Blues and Hurricanes a day later. Handed a bye first up, the Crusaders will have to wait until Week 2 to get back onto the field.
Matches will be played at each side’s home ground, albeit behind closed doors until mass gatherings are allowed once again. The Mitre 10 Cup has also been given a start date, with the provincial competition to begin on September 11.
The news follows the announcement that the country will move to Level 2 lockdown restrictions this Thursday, the stage at which professional rugby and netball had been given the green light to resume by the New Zealand government.
“The thought of five world-class Kiwi teams battling it out in 20 matches over ten weeks should put a smile back on the faces of many people. I know our players are excited and I’m sure rugby fans will be as well,” NZR CEO Mark Robinson said.
“Medical and operational staff across NZR, the Players’ Association and the clubs have been working together to ensure we have detailed plans in place to protect the health and safety of everyone involved.”
The full Super Rugby season was cancelled in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has seen sport put on hold around the globe. With international travel bans scuppering any ideas of resuming the full competition between New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Argentina and Japan, Rugby Australia is also poised to announce a domestic-only season, likely featuring the Western Force.