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By ARU Media Unit
The 2014 Asteron Life Super Rugby season is ready for kick off following today’s official launch, with two Australian derbies headlining the opening round of the competition for Australian teams on February 22-23.
The competition will pit the best players from the top three nations on the IRB world rankings – Australia, New Zealand and South Africa – against one another for the next seven months, climaxing in the Super Rugby Final on Saturday, 2 August.
Australian Rugby Union CEO, Bill Pulver, launched the competition with the coaches, captains and star players of the Australian Super Rugby clubs, and announced Asteron Life as the Official Naming Rights Partner.
Asteron Life is a leading life insurance provider across Australia and New Zealand and is part of the Suncorp Group of companies.
Mr Pulver said the 2014 Asteron Life Super Rugby season will grip fans like never before and is confident of an Australian success story in 2014.
“We have new coaches in Queensland, ACT and Melbourne; we will host an Anzac Day match between an Australian and New Zealand side for the first time this year; and we’re confident an Australian side will regain the Super Rugby title for the first time since the Queensland Reds in 2011,” Mr Pulver said.
“Following impressive performances at a national level during the recent Spring Tour, members of the Qantas Wallabies squad will be back and ready for Super Rugby action, so it will be a wonderful opportunity for fans to see Australia’s best elite Rugby talent.”
Mr Pulver welcomed Asteron Life’s three-year partnership, an agreement which runs until the end of the 2016 season.
“In my opinion, Super Rugby is one of the strongest competitions in the world and provides the foundations for our national teams to succeed. We’re delighted to have Asteron Life as a partner to help us remain world-class, particularly as we head towards Rugby World Cup 2015,” he said.
Head of Asteron Life, Jordan Hawke, said Asteron Life’s values and strategic goals were naturally aligned with Rugby.
“In our business at Asteron Life, we are committed to ‘Celebrating Life’. The opportunity for us to extend this celebration through the Asteron Life Super Rugby season resonated with us,” Mr Hawke said.
“We are extremely proud to partner with Australian Rugby to bring a season of
opportunities to celebrate life with Rugby fans.”
The Australian Super Rugby conference opens with two-time champions and 2013 finalists, University of Canberra (UC) Brumbies, taking on the 2011 championship-winning St.George Queensland Reds on Saturday, 22 February in Canberra.
Michael Foley will meet his former club when the Western Force travel to Sydney on Sunday, 23 February to play a resurgent NSW Waratahs side brimming with pace and power at Allianz Stadium.
The RaboDirect Rebels get their campaign underway the following Friday, 28 February in Melbourne with a tough test against the ever-improving Cheetahs from South Africa.
The 2014 Asteron Life Super Rugby season also sees the welcome return of a number of familiar faces.
Former Qantas Wallabies Captain, David Pocock, will take his place at flanker for the Brumbies, setting up a highly-anticipated clash against 2013 John Eales Medal recipient and Waratah, Michael Hooper, in Round 5 on Saturday, 15 March in Canberra.
The Rebels have secured the services of former Qantas Wallabies playmaker, Luke Burgess, who returns from a successful stint in France to boost Australian Rugby’s scrumhalf stocks, competing against incumbent Qantas Wallabies Will Genia (Queensland Reds) and Nic White (ACT Brumbies).
With the elevation of Ewen McKenzie to Qantas Wallabies Head Coach, Richard Graham takes over at the Queensland Reds. Former Qantas Wallabies Assistant Coach, Tony McGahan, leads the Rebels while World Cup-winning Wallaby, Stephen Larkham, takes charge at the Brumbies following Jake White’s departure.
Across the ditch, 2011 Rugby World Cup-winning All Blacks Captain Richie McCaw, Mils Muliaina and Cory Jane return to Super Rugby action for their respective sides.
For the first time in Australian Super Rugby history, Canberra will host a Trans- Tasman Anzac Day clash when the Brumbies take on the Chiefs in a repeat of the 2013 Final.
In Auckland, the Blues battle the Waratahs in Round 11 on Anzac Day, setting up a meeting with former rugby league star Benji Marshall. The Tahs came out on top in emphatic style when the sides played in a pre-season trial game in Sydney.
In South Africa, 2004 IRB Player of the Year Schalk Burger makes his comeback as Vice-Captain for the Cape Town-based Stormers after a year out of the game, while 36-year-old lock Victor Matfield returns to play for the Bulls. Jake White’s rejuvenated Sharks will also be looking to make the finals after missing out last season.
The 2014 Asteron Life Super Rugby season kicks off on Sunday, 16 February (2:05 AEDT) with a South African Conference double header featuring the Cheetahs and Lions in Bloemfontein followed by the Sharks hosting the Bulls in Durban.
You can catch all 125 matches of the 2014 Asteron Life Super Rugby season live and uninterrupted in High Definition on Fox Sports and selected matches on ABC radio.
To download all of the fixtures from the 2014 Asteron Life Super Rugby season please click here.
The popularity of rugby in Japan has continued to grow ahead of their inclusion in the 2016 Super Rugby competition.