179 days after Bernard Foley kicked the decisive penalty goal to seal a maiden Super Rugby title for the NSW Waratahs, captains and coaches from each Australian franchise today gathered at Sydney’s iconic Opera House to launch the 2015 Asteron Life Super Rugby season.
Kicking off on Friday, 13 February when Australia’s newest franchise, the RaboDirect Rebels, travel to Christchurch to take on the Crusaders, 15 teams across New Zealand, South Africa and Australia will vie for the honour of being crowned the best provincial side in the Southern Hemisphere.
Australian Rugby Union CEO Bill Pulver was joined by Asteron Life Executive Manager Mark Vilo alongside Super Rugby leaders Stephen Moore (ACT Brumbies), Scott Higginbotham (Melbourne Rebels), Dave Dennis (NSW Waratahs), James Slipper (Queensland Reds) and Matt Hodgson (Western Force) to kick the season off in style.
Mr Pulver is eagerly anticipating another enthralling competition after 2014 represented the most successful Super Rugby season ever for Australian teams, with more wins collectively throughout the season than ever before.
“In my opinion, the Asteron Life Super Rugby competition is the toughest and most exciting in the world. In a Rugby World Cup year, all players in Australia will be keen to push their case for Test selection, with the best way to achieve this through some strong performances at a provincial level. For fans, this means guaranteed drama, scintillating skill and some classic match-ups.”
“The Waratahs set the bar high with last year’s history-making effort, and I’m sure this will inspire the other Australian teams in 2015. Over the next six months, with 120 matches in the regular season, including 20 local derbies, there are so many stories to be told.
“With each Super Rugby club in Australia offering competitive ticket prices for fans - particularly juniors and families - 2015 bears all of the hallmarks of a Super Rugby season not be missed.”
Asteron Life Executive Manager, Mark Vilo said the Asteron Life was proud to partner with the ARU and sponsor the Super Rugby for a second year.
“Last year’s season was a cracker and we are keen to see another season of tough and entertaining rugby for the fans. This year we will build on the success of the Asteron Life Community Coach of the Year, where the other heroes of the game – the community coaches, are recognised for the time they give up selflessly to mentor our young rugby talent.”
The NSW Waratahs, looking to be the first Australian side to win back-to-back Super Rugby titles, will kick-off their season with a Sunday afternoon clash with the Western Force – a repeat of last year’s season opener. With excitement machine Israel Folau and the tenacious Michael Hooper in their ranks, the Waratahs will be keen to send Head Coach Michael Cheika out on a high before he takes on the role of Qantas Wallabies Head Coach full-time from July.
Of all of the Super Rugby franchises in the off-season, it was arguably the Queensland Reds that made the biggest headlines with the recruitment of cross-code convert Karmichael Hunt, 44-cap Wallaby James O’Connor as well as former All Black Adam Thomson. Head Coach Richard Graham has assembled a vibrant squad that will thrill fans throughout the competition.
After another successful season that saw the ACT Brumbies reach the final four of the 2014 Super Rugby competition, it has been evolution rather than revolution in the nation’s capital. Stephen Larkham has added to his squad shrewdly, picking up Sean Doyle from Ulster, James Dargaville after a strong performance in the National Rugby Championship with the Sydney Stars and Lausii Taliauli from the Australian Sevens program. The experienced David Pocock and Stephen Moore are also set to return from injury to bolster a strong Brumbies side.
2015 promises much for the Western Force after a fine 2014 season which saw the Perth-based outfit record the most wins in a season (nine) and the most consecutive wins in the club’s history (five). The men from the west, who have re-signed fan favourite Nick Cummins for 2015, finish the regular season with three eye-catching local derbies, playing the Queensland Reds (30 May), ACT Brumbies (5 June) and finally the Melbourne Rebels (12 June).
The Rebels will be looking to make their first-ever Final series this season, showing promise in memorable wins over the Cheetahs and Brumbies in 2014 to suggest that dream could well become a reality. Featuring new recruit Radike Samo as well as the formidable Wallaby pairing of Scott Higginbotham and Sean McMahon, the Rebels entertain their old foes from across the border, the NSW Waratahs, in their first home match of the season at AAMI Park (20 February, 7.40pm AEDT). Rebels’ fans have also undoubtedly penned the ANZAC Day clash with the Waratahs in Sydney (Round 11) in their diaries.
With the ANZAC Centenary occurring in 2015, SANZAR has orchestrated the draw to ensure five matches involving Australian and New Zealand teams are played across this hugely significant weekend.
Back-to-back fixtures between Chiefs v Force and Brumbies v Highlanders on Friday April 24 see the round commence with clashes on either side of the Tasman before a pair of key derbies take centre stage on ANZAC Day.
The Blues travel to Christchurch to renew their rivalry with the Crusaders before the Waratahs host the Rebels at ANZ Stadium in a battle between two traditional Australian foes who will vie for the Weary Dunlop Shield, a trophy bearing the name of a hero whose name resonates loudly throughout Rugby and the armed forces.
Once again, the New Zealand conference looks strong with the 2012 and 2013 Super Rugby title-winning Chiefs boasting World Rugby Player of the Year Brodie Retallick in their ranks while also strengthening their stocks with the addition of superstar Sonny Bill Williams. Last year’s Finalists, the Crusaders, will be looking to make the Finals for the 14th successive year having made minimal changes to their squad for 2015.
The Bulls will be leading the charge out of South Africa in a bid to end the country’s Super Rugby drought – the Pretoria-based side was the last team from the country to win the title back in 2010. The Sharks from Durban finished the 2014 regular season in third place overall and have added wisely with the signings of England international Matt Stevens and Mouritz Botha – both from Saracens in the Guinness Premiership.
Rugby fans can catch all 125 matches of the 2015 Asteron Life Super Rugby season live and uninterrupted in High Definition on FOX SPORTS and selected matches on ABC radio. The opening game of Round One kicks off at 5.35pm AEDT when the Crusaders take on the Melbourne Rebels at AMI Stadium in Christchurch, while the first game on Australian soil sees the Brumbies host the Reds later that evening at GIO Stadium in Canberra.
To download all of the fixtures from the 2015 Asteron Life Super Rugby season please CLICK HERE
2015 ASTERON LIFE SUPER RUGBY SEASON AT-A-GLANCE:
• The 2015 Asteron Life Super Rugby Season features 120 matches in the Regular Season.
• The season kicks off on Friday, 13 February when the Crusaders take on the Melbourne Rebels.
• Each team will play 16 Regular Season matches – eight home and eight away (plus two byes).
• There will be 40 Regular Season matches in each country and 20 regular season ‘local derbies’ in each country.
• 50% of all Regular Season matches will be ‘local derbies’ and each team will play 12 of its 16 Regular Season matches within its own country – with only four matches overseas.
• The final round of the 18-round, Regular Season takes place 12-13 June 2015.
• The Super Rugby Finals series will kick off on the weekend of 19-20 June.
• The 2015 Asteron Life Super Rugby Final will take place on Saturday, 4 July.
• The 2015 Asteron Life Super Rugby season will finish a month earlier this year to allow national teams time to prepare for the 2015 Rugby World Cup, which kicks off in England in September.
• Every game from the 2015 Asteron Life Super Rugby season will be broadcast live and exclusively in High Definition on FOX SPORTS.