The excitement generated during the final stages of this year’s Super Rugby tournament will resume when the 2012 Super Rugby season kicks off in February.
The 2012 Super Rugby draw was released today by SANZAR, with the first weekend of the new season featuring several high profile local derbies that are certain to get the tournament off to a flying start.
The top two finishing teams in New Zealand in 2011, the Blues and the Crusaders will get the new season underway on Friday 24 February, 2012 when they meet at Eden Park in Auckland.
The opening Round of action also includes derby clashes between the Bulls and the Sharks at Loftus in Pretoria, also on 24 February, and between leading Australian teams, the Waratahs and defending champions the Reds, at ANZ Stadium in Sydney on Saturday 25 February.
In other first-round clashes, the Brumbies host the Force in Canberra on Friday 24 February, whilst on Saturday 25 February, the Chiefs host the Highlanders in Hamilton, the Stormers are at home against the Hurricanes in Cape Town and the Lions host the Cheetahs in Johannesburg.
The Rebels have a first round bye.
SANZAR CEO, Greg Peters, said the draw was the culmination of months of liaison with the 15 franchises, the three host broadcasters, venue owners and other stakeholders.
“When you play a competition over three geographical territories separated by the Indian Ocean, preparing the draw is always going to be challenging,” Peters said. “We wanted to ensure that the 2012 competition started with some key match-ups in each territory”.
Some key features of the 2012 draw are:
Five Sunday matches: Week 4 – Rebels vs Cheetahs in Melbourne (18 March), Week 10 – Waratahs vs Crusaders (29 April in Sydney), Week 11- Crusaders vs Reds (6 May TBC), Week 12 – Reds vs Chiefs (13 May in Brisbane) and Week 13 – Force vs Rebels (20 May in Perth).
A fixture on Thursday 5 April when the Rebels host the Blues in Melbourne ahead of the Easter weekend.
Headline fixtures in Australia and New Zealand on the ANZAC weekend – Blues vs Reds in Auckland on Friday 28 April and Waratahs vs Crusaders in Sydney on Saturday 29 April.
“As was the case in 2011, the first few rounds of play will feature a majority of local derbies before most teams begin travelling from week 3 onwards,” Peters said.
“The season will run for 15 weeks to 2 June after which there will be a three-week break for in-bound tours to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The season will resume on the weekend of 29 and 30 June with the staging of a further three rounds before the playoffs. The bulk of these matches will again be local derbies,” he said.
The three Conference winners and three best-placed ‘wildcards’ will advance to the Finals Series, that will be held over three weeks, commencing on 20/21 July with a Qualifier round, semi-finals on 27/28 July, and culminating in the Super Rugby Final on Saturday 4 August.
The 2012 Super Rugby draw is attached. Some match venues still need to be confirmed, particularly in New Zealand where, in some cases, games are taken to smaller venues within the Franchise boundaries.
SANZAR will confirm all home venues by November 4, 2011.