With a week’s worth of 2020 Super Rugby announcements, it seems that NZR and Rugby Australia for fully aligned for all planned competitions.
Beginning with New Zealand Rugby (NZR) announcing the return of Super Rugby Aotearoa, and followed immediately by Rugby Australia reaffirming their own 2021 Super Rugby Australia version would be played in a similar window.
The positive messaging did not stop there though. Only days later, both unions showed how aligned they have become, by announcing the launch of a Super Rugby Trans-Tasman competition. CEO’s for each union stop side-by-side in unison, to promote the fixtures list that in 2021 will ramp Super Rugby up to pitch all franchises into a championship to name the best of both countries.
🇦🇺🇳🇿 Rugby Australia and New Zealand Rugby are delighted to announce a Trans-Tasman crossover competition in 2021, to follow their respective domestic Super Rugby tournaments.
— Rugby Australia (@RugbyAU) November 13, 2020
Note: draw is subject to change
NZR/Rugby Australia aligned for 2021 Super Rugby competitions
As the news soaked in, it was clear to see that all three 2020 Super Rugby competitions had been designed to complement the other. Not developed in isolation but, in a planned alignment that was not as obvious to see back in June or July.
While that period is being swept into the background, the three draws are all still subject to change. The Coronavirus threat is not yet over, even while the Tri Nations tournament is being held, a conscious nod to that fact was acknowledged by both unions in media releases this week.
“Our teams here have been working quietly on this becoming a reality, and it’s just wonderful for both games and for both nations to see that happen. It’s really important for our clubs to have as many home games as possible because the whole rugby-economy has been hurt during Covid. And who knows if Covid is going to have a lag effect next year, so we’re going to have to be prepared for that”, Rob Clarke said in a dual-press conference made Friday.
The effect of the lost revenue from the cancelled 2020 championship will continue to be felt. Earnings are down yet even while Covid could still need to see the draw changed – with trans-Tasman travel restrictions or worse – the need to promote the joint promotion is something that all parties are agreed on.
This model is of benefit to the five existing franchises of either nation; with the Western Force team now fully integrated back into Rugby Australia’s fold (after being culled in 2016).
NZR chief executive Mark Robinson reiterated the same message. He said, “2021 Super Rugby Trans-Tasman is a great result for fans on both sides of the Tasman and is testament to the strength of the relationship between NZR and RA.
It’s been a testing time for rugby in both countries, but also a chance to reimagine the game in our part of the world for 2021. The result is an exciting and innovative new competition, which will benefit fans, players, broadcasters, and franchises.
“We all know how special the rivalry between New Zealand and Australia is when it comes to sport and this tournament will add another exciting chapter”. The improved relationship is a correlation of the traditional values that had been under threat. Full credit should be given to each union, for rising above the name-calling and disharmony that could have derailed this planned competition.
Fixtures list for New Zealand/Australia begins in February
The two domestic competitions will each begin in February, with the 2020 Super Rugby Australia draw opening on Friday, February 19. The home-and-away format continues, and the New Zealand competition begins a week later, on Friday, February 26.
The dates for a new season of Super Rugby Aotearoa has been released.
5 franchises like this year.
Again, with the lack of certainty in International travel, a localized competition is the only option in 2021 but, the future looks like a 12 team format (TBC)#rugbychat pic.twitter.com/qQ3plbGG4t
— Last Word on Rugby (@LWOSRugby) November 11, 2020
Popularity for afternoon matches continues in the new season, with many Saturday and Sunday afternoon fixtures again appealing to families as well as traditional Friday and Saturday evening fixtures. Byes will also continue, as each competition retains five sides although, when the two nations merge the 10 teams create a perfectly balanced draw.
2020 Super Rugby Trans-Tasman will feature 25 matches over five weeks, before a Grand Final on Saturday 19 June. All teams will also play two away matches, while their fifth will be part of a ‘Super Round’ featuring every Round Three match being played at one location, over one weekend [tbc].
NZR and RA will announce kick-off times, dates, and venues for the Trans-Tasman competition as well as the process that will be used to select the location of the ‘Super Round’ in due course.
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