Super Rugby draw revised to delay trans-Tasman travel

The season had been set to begin on 18 February, with Australian-based teams facing their New Zealand counterparts from the outset to maximise trans-Tasman rivalries.

 Canterbury Crusaders inflicted a 63-28 thrashing of Australian champions Queensland Reds in their Super Rugby Trans-Tasman match on Saturday, 22 May 2021. Picture: Twitter/@SuperRugby

WELLINGTON - The Super Rugby draw for next year has been revised to delay trans-Tasman travel for as long as possible and minimise potential disruption from COVID-19 restrictions, competition organisers said Thursday.

The season had been set to begin on 18 February, with Australian-based teams facing their New Zealand counterparts from the outset to maximise trans-Tasman rivalries.

But the New Zealand government will not allow quarantine-free access for foreign nationals until the end of April at the earliest, forcing a rethink by competition organisers.

Instead, the first nine rounds will feature local derbies with the New Zealand-based teams playing one another while the Australians do likewise.

Round 10 will be played in Melbourne and round 11 at Australian grounds, with hopes that New Zealand travel restrictions will have been lifted for round 12 in early May.

The overall format will remain unchanged - 15 regular-season rounds in a round-robin format followed by a three-week finals series.

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

The competition features five Australian teams, five from New Zealand plus newcomers Moana Pasifika, based in Auckland, and the Fijian Drua, with headquarters in rural New South Wales.