Cape Town - Super Rugby's geographical appeal and footprint has been highlighted with the release of an updated tournament schedule for the 2019 tournament that will kick-off on Friday, February 15 when the Chiefs host the Highlanders in Hamilton, New Zealand.
The final will take place on Saturday, July 6.
SANZAAR's updated schedule includes the match venues that have now all been confirmed by the teams and the respective kick-off times.
"As there will be no June inbound international matches in 2019, due to Rugby World Cup in Japan later in the year, Super Rugby will run uninterrupted for 21 weeks from February to July. This is a huge plus for the tournament next year and there will also be a uniform start to the tournament in Round 1 with a full round of seven matches to kick off Super Rugby," the southern hemisphere governing body's CEO, Andy Marinos, said via a press statement.
The first round will see matches played in five countries with Hamilton (New Zealand) joined as a host city by Canberra (Brumbies v Rebels, Australia), Auckland (Blues v Crusaders, New Zealand), Sydney (Waratahs v Hurricanes, Australia), Singapore (Sunwolves v Sharks), Pretoria (Bulls v Stormers, South Africa) and Buenos Aires (Jaguares v Lions), Argentina.
There are also several matches in regional areas with a Round 3 match in Palmerston North (New Zealand) between the Hurricanes and Brumbies, a Round 7 match in Newcastle (Australia) between the Waratahs and Sunwolves, while in Round 18 Invercargill (New Zealand) will host the Highlanders v Waratahs match.
"During the season the Sunwolves will play two of its matches at the Singapore National Stadium, the Round 1 clash with the Sharks and Round 6 against the Lions. The Chiefs will once again take one of its home matches to Fiji and will play the Crusaders in Suva in Round 16. It will be third such meeting between the teams in Fiji with each having won a match in Suva," added Marinos.
The tournament’s 15-team, three-Conference format remains the same as last year. Each team plays 16 regular season conference matches that include eight matches within their own Conference (home and away) and four matches against teams from each of the other Conferences (home or away). Each team also has two byes. This is a total of 120 matches in the regular season that will be followed by a seven-match, eight-team Finals Series.
The Finals Series will also remain unchanged with each of the three Conference winners qualifying for and hosting 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. This Wildcard team will be joined in the quarter-finals by the next best four Wildcard teams based on tournament points and regardless of Conference.
Australia Conference: Brumbies, Rebels, Reds, Waratahs, Sunwolves
New Zealand Conference: Blues, Chiefs, Crusaders, Highlanders, Hurricanes
South African Conference: Bulls, Lions, Sharks, Stormers, Jaguares