What are we talking about with the release of the Super Rugby draw?
1. Road trips galore
Three Australian teams will travel more than they stay at home in 2017, with just seven home games in 15 matches for the year. The Reds, Waratahs and Brumbies will all host just seven matches for the season, with the Force playing eight at their home grounds. The Force and Rebels had seven home games in 2016, with the WA franchise going winless in Perth, while the Rebels had three victories on home soil. The Brumbies had six of their 10 2016 wins at Canberra Stadium in 2016, while Reds notched all three regular season wins and a draw in Brisbane and the Waratahs had half their victories at Allianz Stadium.
2. First Thursday night game
There isn’t much changing in Super Rugby this year but the broadcasters have added a new timeslot to the schedule, kicking off the year with a Thursday night match between the Rebels and the Blues. Thursday night has been immensely popular with Melbourne crowds in the AFL and has delivered major ratings spikes for the code. Super Rugby has rarely tried the timeslot but will have its first taste with that Rebels game as well as the second round clash between the Reds and Force.
3. Conference crossover
The new format means Australia and New Zealand teams will play each other each year, but they alternate between two South African conferences each season. This time around the Aussies will take on the Jaguares, Kings, Sharks and Lions, and miss out on facing the Sunwolves, Stormers, Bulls and Cheetahs. That crossover means 2016 finalists the Lions won’t play a Kiwi team unless they make the playoffs. Three Aussie teams will travel
4. Split rounds
Next year is a big one for June series Tests, with the British and Irish Lions coming out to New Zealand. Rather than the usual complete break of Super Rugby, the competition will hold rounds 15 and 16 over four weekends, with games on the weekends of June 2, June 9, June 30 and July 7. While not every team will be playing each of those weekends, the move means there will be just two consecutive weekends with no Super Rugby in the 2017 season.
5. No rest for Australian teams in the back end
Australia’s sides won’t have a Super Rugby by after round 13 of the competition, meaning a hard slog to finals. While there will be somewhat of a break with around the June Tests, the Australian teams are the first to use up their by allocation, with the Reds the final team to have a week off, in round 13, with their second bye in five rounds coming then. The Rebels will be finished with their weeks off by round seven, with their first bye in round three, and the Force is done a week later, in round eight. The Brumbies have their second bye in round 11, with the Waratahs’ last week off in round 12. The Cheetahs, Lions and Sharks all have a bye in round 16, the penultimate home and away round.