SANZAAR has announced the match fixtures for the 2020 Super Rugby season, which kicks off on Friday, 31 January and will finish 21 weeks later on Saturday, 20 June.
The Super Rugby tournament will run without a winter international tour break. As from 2020, the global window will be in July – after the Super Rugby season completes.
The 21-week format is made up of 18 rounds of the regular season followed by three weeks of the playoffs.
On the season-opening day, the Blues will host the Chiefs at Eden Park in Auckland while later the same evening the Brumbies will host the Reds at GIO Stadium in Canberra.
Super Rugby CEO Andy Marinos said, “2020 will see a season of uninterrupted action from February to July due to the shift of the inbound international rugby window from June to July.
“An earlier than usual start has been required to get through the 21-week tournament and provide the SANZAAR National Teams with a clear week leading into the July Test series.
“The complexity of the draw and managing logistics and scheduling that delivers a draw that is fair and equitable has been our priority.
“This has been achieved with a consultative and collaborative approach with the national unions, Super Rugby teams and broadcasters.
“With the majority of players benefitting from a longer than usual off-season – due to RWC 2019 – we expect the teams to deliver another compelling tournament and a competitive race for the Finals similar to that which we saw this year when 11 teams were still in the hunt for a Finals berth on the last weekend.”
The new schedule has 22 match venues confirmed, and Super Rugby will once again venture into several new venues and cities.
“It has been confirmed that Hanazono Stadium, Osaka and Level Five Stadium, Fukuoka in Japan will host Sunwolves matches, while the Waratahs will play at WIN Stadium, Wollongong in Australia,” added Marinos.
The tournament’s 15-team, three-Conference format remains the same in 2020. Each team plays 16 regular season conference matches that include eight matches within their Conference (home and away) and four matches against teams from each of the other Conferences (home or away).
Each team also has two byes during the 120-match regular season.
Australia Conference: Brumbies, Rebels, Reds, Waratahs, Sunwolves [Japan]
New Zealand Conference: Blues, Chiefs, Crusaders, Highlanders, Hurricanes
South African Conference: Bulls, Lions, Sharks, Stormers, Jaguares [Argentina]
The Finals series will again comprise a seven-match, three-week, eight-team finals series. Each of the three Conference winners will host a quarter-final.
The team with the most tournament points that is not a Conference winner, regardless of Conference, will host the fourth quarter-final.
A Wildcard team will be joined in the quarter-finals by the next best four Wildcard teams based on tournament points, regardless of Conference.