“All systems ready to Go!” Super Rugby 2015

It’s gathering pace in New Zealand, with the huge, new Super Rugby 2015 season ready to kick-off this Friday night in Christchurch.

The Crusaders now plan to begin round one with a ‘bang’ against a keen Australian counterpart – The Melbourne Rebels. There will be plenty of stars on display and the opening match will be critical to both sides aspirations.

This clash also promises to be a gauge of how popular Super Rugby will be in New Zealand; with a major ‘distraction’ in the form of the ICC Cricket World Cup being run from February to March serving as competition.

Rugby usually has a strong pull at this time of year over the Southern Hemisphere, so while some commentators and administrators [Steve Tew included] have spoken of a potential ‘drop-off’ in viewers to Cricket coverage, I’m set for some fireworks from the opening round – Todd Blackadder announcing that Dan Carter and Richie McCaw will ‘both start’ this first round, which is a real injection of positivity for the traditionally slow-starting Crusaders.

Their starting side also includes All Blacks Colin Slade, Joe Moody, Matt Todd, with Luke Whitelock having a run at number eight. Owen Franks, Luke Romano, Tom Taylor round out the incredible nine Internationals to run out – The Rebels will have their work cut out for them indeed.

And that Rebels side too, they include Wallaby players like Scott Higginbotham, new recruit to Melbourne Dom Shipperly and New Zealand born Mike Harris (also a new signing) who will receive a cheerful welcome for him I’m sure.

With that said, we have an entire round of Super Rugby to look forward to, and this reporter could spend the rest of this article listing the other six matches, making countless references to well prepared Australian and South African players – but I won’t.

Lets look at the competition proper – it runs over a total of 18 rounds, with every side having two bye weekends. At the end of June we will see which teams have topped their respective conferences. That prize ensures a home semi-final, and experience tells us that last years championship winning side The Warratahs took full advantage of that supreme position to go all the way to a first title.

And the truth is, in this 20th season of Super Rugby (not including those formative South Pacific Rugby years; that included a win by The Cheetahs and multiple Reds victories) we can all look back and enjoy the story that is Super Rugby.

At first, its was ‘fresh and fancy-free’ with tries galore and end-to-end action. It has evolved now to ferocious tackling, skilled players from one-to-fifteen and I still enjoy it for one. As do thousands, hundreds of thousands and ultimately now, millions of rugby fans worldwide.

Fans still remember those epic clashes between The Auckland Blues versus The Natal Sharks [circa 1996 final] that form part of a rich history. Those matches brought us now to a South African conference with teams like the Bulls, Sharks and the ‘Golden Lions’ – formerly known as the Cats.

Rugby memories are strong for us all, and we all have to admit it. Fans from Brisbane to Bloemfontein, we all carry memories of single matches, rugby events that have moulded our passion and that includes that very first Super 12 match that kicked it all off.

Local hero Mark ‘Bull’ Allen led his men into rugby folklore and this competition introduced Christian Cullen to an open field and asked him to just “run for it”

The final score clicked over 60 points. The Blues might have won that battle, but it was an event that introduced us all to professional sport. And on Friday night, we must salute them all.

After 20 years, it is still drawing fans to rugby, and fans of this open style of rugby we love to play ‘downunder’. The game is healthy too – lets not be all doom and gloom Steve.

This initial match might happen to be The Crusaders playing The Rebels, but I will bet that many fans sitting at AMI Stadium will be enjoying this contest, as much as reinforcing the fact that they still enjoy it.

OK, I know their is some Cricket on, and while the weather is nice, they will all have a colorful time. We will still be playing rugby come round 5 in early March. Many a rugby fan would have got tired of 300 run ODI matches, washed-out cricket games and will look longingly to the assured enjoyment of a game of rugby in Palmerston North.

It may have been 20 years since we witnessed a sensation like Christisn Cullen, but fans of Super Rugby are still enjoying this annual championship across all 3 nations

It all starts on Friday. And I’m going to be front and centre. Ready to blow-out the candles on the 20th celebrations. Not many rugby careers last 20 years, so the game itself is what we celebrate – and that we have only just started this season.


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