The new Super Rugby Pacific competition will start on February 18 next year with a 15-week regular season and a refreshed finals format that will stay the same in 2023, according to a statement from New Zealand Rugby (NZR) and Rugby Australia (RA).
The 2022 season gets a rebadge with the introduction of Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika who join New Zealand’s five clubs and Australia’s five clubs in a 12-team tournament. A draw is to follow in the next few weeks.
The new competition schedule for 2022 and 2023 features a 91 match, 18-week season with teams playing 14 regular season matches, with a top eight contesting a three-week finals series.
It was understood a sticking point had been over the make up of the three extra matches per team after they had played everyone once. Although a draw has not been released, a statement from the Waratahs said there would be “a focus on derby matches to create seven home and away fixtures for each franchise”.
It was thought New Zealand clubs opposed derbies because they believed it would unfairly favour Australian teams.
“Delivered by the joint venture partnership between NZR and RA, Super Rugby Pacific will kick off on 18 February next year with an eight-team playoff series culminating in a final on 18 June,” the statement read.
Features of the Super Rugby Pacific competition
– 12 teams (in alphabetical order), being the Blues, Brumbies, Chiefs, Crusaders, Fijian Drua, Highlanders, Hurricanes, Melbourne Rebels, Moana Pasifika, NSW Waratahs, Queensland Reds and Western Force
– Teams will play 14 regular season matches with each team to host 7 matches
– Teams will play eight teams once and three teams twice with an emphasis on derby matches
– There will be one points table with teams ranked one to 12 based on competition points
– The top eight teams on the points table will qualify for a three-week playoff format
– Quarterfinals will be – 1 v 8, 2 v 7, 3 v 6 and 4 v 5 with the top ranked team playing at home
– Top ranked quarter-final winners will host the semi-finals, and top-ranked winner of the semi-finals will host the final
– 18-week season all completed prior to the July international window
The Fiji Rugby Union will announce where the Fijian Drua’s home matches will be played in the coming days, while Moana Pasifika will play their home fixtures primarily in New Zealand, the statement said.
Super Rugby Pacific’s two new entrants will play each other twice in the first two seasons with other examples where teams play twice to be determined by a seeding process based on 2021 results, with an emphasis on local derbies.
The make up of the extra three matches per team had been a contentious issue which does not appear to have been resolved.
Rugby Australia CEO Andy Marinos was quoted as saying: “We’re thrilled to confirm the competition model for next year and beyond and want to thank NZR for their hard work and effort along with the Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika for their patience, and the effort that has been put into their proposals.
“This is a game-changer for Rugby in the Pacific, and indeed, the rest of the rugby world. We have seen the brilliant rugby that Fijians play in all formats of the game and their inclusion will make this new competition one of the toughest in the world.”
Moana Pasifika Chair Savae Sir Michael Jones was quoted as saying: “Moana Pasifika acknowledges and thanks New Zealand Rugby and Rugby Australia for their commitment to building an exciting Super Rugby Pacific competition and the round-robin format definitely makes it even more attractive. It is a historic time for rugby in the Pacific and we’re thrilled to be a part of it.”