The 2017 Super Rugby schedule was announced on Tuesday.
Rugby.com.au has broken down each Australian team's schedule, look at how they fare and what their reaction was to the draw.
Draw: Sharks (H), Force (A), Crusaders (H), Lions (A), Jaguares (A) Hurricanes (H), Brumbies (A), Kings (H), BYE, Waratahs (H), Chiefs (A), Rebels (A),BYE, Force (H), Blues (A), JUNE TEST BREAK, Brumbies (H), Highlanders (A)
Time slots : 7 x Saturday night, 5 x Friday night, 1 x Saturday afternoon, 1 x Saturday twilight, 1x Thursday night
Pros: With a bunch of new and returning stars, the Reds have a chance to assert themselves in the opening fortnight, with potentially winnable clashes against the Sharks at home and then the Force in Perth, building towards a tough three weeks.
Cons: Eight games without a break will be a brutal start for the Reds, especially given it includes their South Africa-Argentina leg. Just two of their final six games, and seven overall, will be played at Suncorp Stadium, which could prove pivotal for their season.
What they said: “To say the team is excited about next year is an understatement. Kicking off our 2017 season at home is a great opportunity to get out and showcase to our fans the developments we’ve made through our hard work in the pre-season. We’ve got seven chances to play in front of our family, friends and fans next year and winning those home games is crucial.”
Draw: Force (H), Lions (A), Sharks (A), Brumbies (H), Rebels (A), Crusaders (H), Hurricanes (A), BYE, Kings (H), Reds (A), Blues (H), BYE, Rebels (H), Highlanders (A), Chiefs (A), JUNE TEST BREAK, Jaguares (H), Force (A)
Time slot split (local venue time): 9 x Saturday night, 3x Friday night, 2x Sunday afternoon, 1 x Saturday twilight
Pros: More evenly spaced byes this year should give the Waratahs a chance to build some momentum early in the year, something they didn’t have the luxury of last year with two byes in the first six rounds. Only two back-to-back away games this season, with a fortnight in South Africa in rounds two and three, and trips to face the Highlanders and the Chiefs ahead of the June break.
Cons: Only the seven home games this season, as part of the rotation of the new competition format and no chance to host historic rivals Queensland on home soil, with just one clash between the pair this season. To make up for the fewer matches, the Waratahs will be hosting a preseason fixture and also package Shute Shield finals tickets with their membership packages. While they do have an early road trip, that was something the club suggested.
What they said: “We love touring, so while it comes early, being in each other's company for two weeks means you can get a lot done. The luxury of being in Sydney is we don’t often get to tour, we have soft travel schedule but we really enjoy the opportunity to get away and we’ll do that in back-to-back New Zealand games as well. Our byes are really nicely interspersed. After the seven-game start for us, we have byes at regular intervals and then there’s the June Test period as well. We’ve got two Sunday home fixtures against some quality opposition, so we’re really excited for our fans and younger fans especially.” - Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson
Draw: Blues (H), Hurricanes (A), BYE, Chiefs (H), Waratahs (H), Highlanders (A), BYE, Brumbies (H), Sharks (A), Kings (A), Lions (H), Reds (H), Waratahs (A) Crusaders (H) Brumbies (A), JUNE TEST BREAK, Force (A), Jaguares (H).
Time slots (local venue time): 5 x Friday nights, 6 x Saturday nights, 1 x Saturday twilight, 1 x Saturday afternoon, 1x Thursday night, 1 x Sunday afternoon
Pros: Eight home games this season and just two games in New Zealand will be handy for them, especially after some disappointing trans-Tasman trips last season. Just two back-to-back away trip for the Rebels, a Brumbies-Force double header and a South Africa tour in rounds nine and 10.
Cons: The Rebels have the toughest draw of all the Australian teams, with a gruelling schedule for 2017. A Thursday night game against the Blues will test them, before playing five of last year’s finalists in the next eight weeks and having their byes all done by round seven. Their run home is a little better but with an eight-game stretch after that second bye, including a two-week South Africa tour, they’ll be desperate for the June Test break.
What they said: “That's a major part of the puzzle of Super Rugby and where you get your draws and your bye and who do you play and where do you travel and all those things. You need to make sure you manage that well. So, we'll break our season up into different parts and we'll make sure we're focused on that and got a full list to pick from and be able to bring players in and out accordingly. Super Rugby's built on a real squad performance and we're going to need everyone to play their role.” - Rebels coach Tony McGahan
Draw: Crusaders (A), Sharks (H), Force (H), Waratahs (A), Highlanders (H), BYE, Reds (H), Rebels (A), Hurricanes (A), Blues (H), BYE, Lions (H), Kings (A), Jaguares (A), Rebels (H), JUNE TEST BREAK, Reds (A), Chiefs (A)
Time slot (venue local time): 9 x Saturday night, 4 x Friday night, 1 x Saturday afternoon, 1x Sunday afternoon.
Pros: The Brumbies have the chance to build some momentum in the first part of their season, with three of their opening five games at home before their first bye. Two clashes against the Reds will keep fans interested, with ex-Brumbies Stephen Moore and George Smith becoming Canberra foes.
Cons: They won’t have a chance to host the Waratahs in 2017, playing their fierce rivals just once through the season, at Allianz Stadium. Just seven home games for the Brumbies overall, including trips away to the Chiefs, Crusaders and Hurricanes. Three back-to-back road trips for the Brumbies in the year will test their stamina as well.
What they said: “Our crowd figures are generally stronger over the warmer months, so to have four matches against quality opposition at that time of year is good news for the players who always get a lift from a big crowd. Hopefully we can lock up another Australian Conference title and see fans out in force supporting a home final, which would definitely lift the players who are chasing the Brumbies first Super Rugby title since 2004.” Brumbies interim CEO Phil Thomson.
Draw: Waratahs (A), Reds (H), Brumbies (A), BYE, Crusaders (A), Blues (A), Kings (H), BYE, Chiefs (H), Lions (H), Sharks (A), Jaguares (A), Highlanders (H), Reds (A), Hurricanes (H), JUNE TEST BREAK, Rebels (H), Waratahs (H)
Time slots (local venue times): 7 x Saturday night, 4 x Friday night, 1 x Saturday twilight, 1 x Saturday afternoon, 1 x Sunday afternoon, 1 x Thursday night
Pros: Eight home games, including four of their last five matches, will be a bonus for the Force as they look to turn their fortunes around.
Cons: It’s a rough start for the Force, with a five-day turnaround from their opener in Sydney against the Waratahs to a Thursday night in Perth against the Reds. From there they have three away games in four weeks, with both of their byes are over by round eight.
What they said: “Probably one of the challenges is the short turnaround to the Reds with a travel component but that will just be about the way we manage it. Fortunately we’ve built some depth in our squad and it’s about the squad, rather than a core group of players. We have more periods in Perth, which enables us to train for longer periods rather than being caught travelling. We’ve made a decision to view our travel as a challenge to overcome, we’re embracing that challenge and recognise that the way the draw is setup, all teams have a travel factor. The Thursday night game is something new and exciting for our fans and a game on Sunday suits all the Force families and having the extra home game is a great advantage.” Force coach Dave Wessels