The domestic competition in New Zealand kicked off in June.

Schedule For Super Rugby Aotearoa Announced

The coronavirus has taken a sledgehammer to most sport, but there is now a reason to be cheerful as there will be a domestic Super Rugby competition taking place in New Zealand, which started in June.

Super Rugby Aotearoa will see each of the five New Zealand franchises – Blues, Chiefs, Crusaders, Highlanders and Hurricanes – play each other in home-and-away fixtures over ten weeks.

Crowds will be permitted after the NZ Government confirmed the country will move to Alert Level One, which lifts restrictions on mass gatherings.

NZR chief executive Mark Robinson said: “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.

“We’re incredibly proud, and grateful, to be the first professional sports competition in the world to be in a position to have our teams play in front of their fans again. It’s going to be a very special and unique competition and it’s fitting that New Zealanders now have a chance to be part of it.”

It has also been announced that the Super Rugby Aotearoa competition will feature several innovations.

If a match is level after 80 minutes, the result will be decided by golden point extra-time. The first team to score – be it with a drop-goal, penalty or try – during a ten-minute period of extra-time will take the win. If neither team scores during extra-time, both teams will be awarded two points for the draw.

There is a change relating to red cards too. If a player is sent off, he can be replaced by another player after 20 minutes.

New Zealand Rugby head of professional rugby Chris Lendrum said: “While players should, and still will be, punished for foul play, red cards can sometimes have too much of an effect on a match.

“There are no winners when a player is red-carded, but paying rugby fans, players and coaches want to see a fair contest. Replacing a player after 20 minutes strikes the right balance.”

Another area being focused on is the breakdown, with referees being told to apply existing laws more strictly. The key focus points are:

  • Ball-carriers will be allowed only one dynamic movement after being tackled.
  • Crawling, or any secondary movement other than placing or passing, will be penalised.
  • Tacklers will be expected to roll away immediately in the direction of the sideline. This will be a referee’s “number one priority” at the tackle.
  • There will be “extra focus” on the offside line with defenders expected to be “clearly” onside to provide attacking teams more space.

Referee manager Bryce Lawrence said: “We’re confident we’ll see a contest that is faster, fairer, safer and easier to understand.”

Super Rugby Aotearoa Schedule

*Kick-offs are UK & Ireland time. All matches will be shown live on Sky Sports. If you don’t have a subscription to Sky but want to watch the matches, you can get a NowTV pass for daily, monthly or mobile access – find out more here.

Round One:

13 June – Highlanders 28-27 Chiefs
14 June – Blues 30-20 Hurricanes

Round Two:

20 June – Chiefs 12-24 Blues
21 June – Hurricanes 25-39 Crusaders

Round Three:

27 June – Blues 27-24 Highlanders
28 June – Crusaders 18-13 Chiefs

Round Four:

4 July – Highlanders 20-40 Crusaders
5 July – Chiefs 18-25 Hurricanes

Round Five:

11 July – Crusaders 26-15 Blues
12 July – Hurricanes 17-11 Highlanders

Round Six:

18 July – Hurricanes 29-27 Blues
19 July – Chiefs 31-33 Highlanders

Round Seven:

25 July – Crusaders 32-34 Hurricanes
26 July – Blues 21-17 Chiefs

Round Eight:

1 August – Chiefs 19-32 Crusaders
2 August – Highlanders 21-32 Blues

Round Nine:

8 August – Hurricanes v Chiefs at Sky Stadium, Wellington at 8.05am
9 August – Crusaders v Highlanders in Christchurch (venue TBC) at 4.35am

Round Ten:

15 August – Highlanders v Hurricanes at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin at 8.05am
16 August – Blues v Crusaders in Auckland (venue TBC) at 4.35am

In addition to Super Rugby Aotearoa, two other elite competitions will be played in New Zealand this year. The Farah Palmer Cup wil kick off in August and the Mitre 10 Cup will begin in September.

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