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    Super Rugby 2018: 5 things to know

    2018-02-15 08:40
    The Crusaders won the 2017 Super Rugby competition (Gallo Images)

    Cape Town - The Super Rugby season kicks off this weekend, with a slimmed-down format to revitalise a competition that had been criticised as over-bloated and predictable.

    Here follows an explanation of the changes designed to improve standards, competitiveness and interest:

    1. Teams trimmed

    For the past two years, 18 teams competed from Buenos Aires to Wellington in four conferences, two in South Africa - which oddly also contained Japan's Sunwolves - and two in Australia/New Zealand. It was often exhausting, not just for the players, who had to battle long journeys and jet lag, but also for fans trying to keep up with matches kicking off across up to 16 time zones each weekend. This year the competition reverts to 15 teams, in three conferences centred on Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

    2. Simpler format

    With the ditching of the complicated four conference structure, scheduling anomalies that meant last year's beaten finalists the Lions did not play any teams from New Zealand in the regular season cannot happen any more because each team will face 12 of the other 14 sides. In total there are 18 rounds of matches, with each team playing 16 matches - eight games home and away against each of their conference rivals plus one match against four of the teams in each of the other two conferences.

    3. Competitive action

    Last year Australian teams lost all 26 matches they played against New Zealand teams, while Japan's Sunwolves were on the wrong end of an 83-17 scoreline against the Hurricanes and a 94-7 drubbing by the Lions. Fewer teams, more inter-conference rivalry and a more balanced fixture list should mean, it is hoped, fewer lopsided encounters.

    4. Sunwolves come home

    In 2017, Japan's Sunwolves had four matches in South Africa and had to travel 18 000 kilometres to Buenos Aires to play against the Jaguares. The odd scheduling meant they did not play a side from Australia once but played five matches against the strongest New Zealand sides. This year the Tokyo-based franchise, who will play at least one home game in Singapore, will move to the Australian conference, meaning fewer long trips and a kinder spread of fixtures.

    5. The three outcasts

    The restructure has not been welcomed by all - especially the three teams cut from the tournament. South Africa's Bloemfontein-based Cheetahs and Port Elizabeth's Southern Kings play on, albeit in the newly expanded Pro16 in Europe. Perth's Western Force will play in Australia's National Rugby Championship when it starts in September before joining the Indo-Pacific League, the brainchild of their billionaire owner Andrew Forrest, scheduled to begin in March 2019.

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    Fixtures

    Friday, 29 June 2018
    • Blues v Reds, Eden Park 09:35
    • Rebels v Waratahs, AAMI Park 11:45
    Saturday, 30 June 2018
    • Highlanders v Chiefs, ANZ National Stadium 09:35
    • Brumbies v Hurricanes, GIO Stadium 11:45
    • Sunwolves v Bulls, Singapore National Stadium 13:55
    • Sharks v Lions, Jonsson Kings Park Stadium 17:15
    • Jaguares v Stormers, Estadio Jose Amalfitani 19:40
    Friday, 06 July 2018
    • Crusaders v Highlanders, AMI Stadium 09:35
    • Reds v Rebels, Suncorp Stadium 11:45

    Results

    04 August 2018
    28 July 2018
    21 July 2018
    20 July 2018
    14 July 2018
    13 July 2018
    07 July 2018
    06 July 2018
    30 June 2018
    29 June 2018
    03 June 2018
    02 June 2018
    01 June 2018
    26 May 2018
    25 May 2018
    19 May 2018
    18 May 2018
    12 May 2018
    11 May 2018
    05 May 2018
    04 May 2018
    28 April 2018
    27 April 2018
    22 April 2018
    21 April 2018
    20 April 2018
    14 April 2018
    13 April 2018
    07 April 2018
    06 April 2018
    01 April 2018
    31 March 2018
    30 March 2018
    24 March 2018
    23 March 2018
    18 March 2018
    17 March 2018
    16 March 2018
    10 March 2018
    09 March 2018
    03 March 2018
    02 March 2018
    24 February 2018
    23 February 2018
    17 February 2018

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