Super Rugby: Sharks draw tough opener

2011-09-06 00:00

THE Sharks will travel to Loftus to play the Bulls in their opening Super Rugby match in 2012.

This high-profile game in Pretoria will be played on a Friday night (February 24) and will be a replay of the 2007 final in Durban.

The Super Rugby tournament has been further extended and will stretch from February 24 to the grand final on August 4 with a three-week break in June to allow for incoming international tours.

The Sharks face a tough opening fortnight, and a week after the Loftus game they travel to Cape Town to face the Stormers at Newlands. They return to Durban to play the Lions and then the title-holding Queensland Reds on March 17 before setting out on their four-game tour Down Under.

John Plumtree’s squad face the Waratahs and Brumbies in Australia before crossing the Tasman Sea to play the Hurricanes and Auckland Blues.

The Sharks will have to wait until Week 10 (April 28) for the first of their two byes; the second is on June 30.

The South African sides play each other twice (home and away) but meet only four of the five teams in Australia and New Zealand. This year the Sharks did not play the Reds and the Highlanders, and in 2012 they will not meet the Melbourne Rebels and the Crusaders.

Sanzar chief executive Greg Peters said yesterday the draw is the culmination of months of liaison with the 15 franchises, the three host broadcasters, venue owners and other stakeholders.

“When you play a competition over three geographical territories separated by the Indian Ocean, preparing the draw is always going to be challenging,” Peters said.

“As was the case in 2011, the first few rounds of play will feature a majority of local derbies before most teams begin travelling from week three onwards,” Peters said.

“The season will run for 15 weeks to June 2, after which there will be a three-week break for inbound tours to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The season will resume on the weekend of June 29 and 30 with the staging of a further three rounds before the play-offs. The bulk of these matches will again be local derbies,” he said.

The three conference winners and three best-placed wildcards will advance to the play-offs, which take place over three weeks with the final on August 4.

SHARKS’ SUPER RUGBY FIXTURES IN 2012 (HOME TEAM FIRST):

Bulls vs Sharks, Feb 24 (Fri)

Stormers vs Sharks, March 3 (Sat)

Sharks vs Lions, March 10 (Sat)

Sharks vs Reds, March 17 (Sat)

Waratahs vs Sharks, March 24 (Sat)

Brumbies vs Sharks, March 31 (Sat)

Hurricanes vs Sharks, April 6 (Fri)

Blues vs Sharks, April 13 (Fri)

Sharks vs Chiefs, April 21 (Sat)

Week 10 Sharks bye (April 28)

Sharks vs Highlanders, May 5 (Sat)

Sharks vs Force, May 12 (Sat)

Cheetahs vs Sharks, May 19 (Sat)

Sharks vs Stormers, May 26 (Sat)

Lions vs Sharks, June 2 (Sat)

Week 19, Sharks bye (June 30)

Sharks vs Bulls, July 7 (Sat)

Sharks vs Cheetahs, July 14 (Sat)

July 21, quarter-finals

July 28, semi-finals

August 4, final

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