Covid travel restrictions force Super Rugby draw re-set

By Te Ao - Māori News

New Zealand Rugby and Rugby Australia have unveiled a revised Super Rugby Pacific 2022 draw, which will see the six New Zealand-based teams and six Australian-based teams play their opening eight matches on different sides of the Tasman due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. 

The revised draw maintains the same key elements of the original draw with each team to play a total of 14 matches during the regular season, 11 round-robin fixtures plus three additional rivalry matches which will see each team play a home and away series against three other teams. 

The competition will still kick off with a blockbuster match between newcomers Moana Pasifika and the Blues at Mt Smart on February 18. 

The competition will get underway on Australian soil the same night, with the NSW Waratahs hosting the Fijian Drua, while a Super Saturday start in New Zealand sees the Chiefs hosting the Highlanders at 4.35pm in Hamilton and the Crusaders welcoming the Hurricanes to Christchurch at 7.05pm.

The beginning of the trans-Tasman matches will see all 12 clubs converge on Melbourne in Round 10 for a Super Round that will feature a unique celebration of the ANZAC spirit. The Hurricanes will take on the Reds, Saturday, April 23.

Hurricanes chief executive Avan Lee said he was happy with the revised draw. 

Fantastic for young fans

“This revised draw will again feature popular derby games as well as fixtures against Australian teams, and we’re happy to bring our fans a couple of afternoon matches too. This will be a fantastic opportunity for our youngest fans to experience Super Rugby Pacific.”  

"We’re also looking forward to welcoming the Highlanders, Moana Pasifika and the Chiefs in three back-to-back home matches,” Lee said.  

Chiefs chief executive Michael Collins is also relieved to share the revised draw with fans early.

“We are thrilled we were able to retain an exciting home draw which we are sure our fans will enjoy, especially some family-friendly afternoon kickoffs. We are very much looking forward to the competition commencing and we know our members, sponsors and fans are eager to return to FMG Stadium Waikato next year. We are looking forward to having them there to cheer on our Chiefs and experience our unique gameday atmosphere.”

NZR general manager professional rugby and performance Chris Lendrum said it was great to be in a position to provide teams, fans and partners certainty ahead of the 2022 season.   

“We are thrilled that we’ve been able to maintain the integrity of the draw with the key elements of Super Rugby Pacific remaining despite the disruptions caused by Covid-19. We believe the full round-robin schedule, the Super Round, bye rounds, Themed Rounds and playoffs were all critical to retain in revising the schedule.  

Challenging environment

Rugby Australia chief executive Andy Marinos said: “We believe these changes will allow us to navigate the challenges of Covid-19 while ensuring we maintain the integrity of the draw and the format of the new Super Rugby Pacific competition.

“It’s been a challenging environment over the past two years, but we’re thankful to our teams and our partners in New Zealand Rugby, SANZAAR and our broadcasters for their support as we worked through this process together.

“This is an exciting new era for rugby in the Pacific and I would encourage all fans to get out and support their teams and sign up to catch all the action.”

Themed rounds including a Women in Rugby Round, Culture Round, and Heritage Round will also remain on the schedule with confirmation of new dates and other details to be announced early next year.

The full Super Rugby Pacific draw can be found here and downloaded here