Tony Brown's Highlanders will host the Crusaders in the opening round of Super Rugby Aotearoa on February 26, New Zealand Rugby confirmed on Monday night.
The Hurricanes and Blues will then face each other on the following day to round out the first weekend of action on the Shaky Isles.
The second edition of the five-team tournament will include 10 rounds of derby action culminating in a winner takes all final on Saturday, May 8. It's a change from 2020, which saw Scott Robertson's Crusaders wrap-up the title with one round to go.
In a boost for the tournament, NZR General Manager Professional Rugby and Performance Chris Lendrum confirmed that the nation's Test players would be available for selection from the outset unlike in 2020.
“We saw how exciting this home and away format was last year, and all five teams now know what’s required to compete and win every week. With the availability of the All Blacks locked in for round one there are going to be fireworks from the opening whistle," he said.
“It’s fantastic to have some certainty for fans, players and partners after what’s been a year of uncertainty. Confirming the 2021 draw is a significant milestone and a positive step for rugby in New Zealand and we’re thrilled to have our broadcast partner Sky come on board as naming rights sponsor.”
WATCH THE ALL BLACKS PLAY ARGENTINA PUMAS AT BANKWEST STADIUM, SATURDAY 14 NOV. TICKETS HERE
🤔 Who would you put at 15 this week for the ABs?#NZLvARG #TriNations2020— RUGBYcomau (@rugbycomau) November 10, 2020
🗓️ Saturday 14 November 5:10PM AEDT
🏟️ Bankwest Stadium, Sydney
🎟️ Tickets https://t.co/mOjJU5poYf
📺 @Foxtel pic.twitter.com/s9i0l8axi2
New Zealand Rugby (NZR) confirmed it is working closely with Rugby Australia on a trans-Tasman competition.
Meanwhile, Rugby Australia is also preparing to announce their Super Rugby AU draw for 2021 after signing their broadcast deal with Nine Entertainment on Monday.
WINNING UGLY OR PLAYING THE 'AUSTRALIAN WAY': Rennie's Wallabies discover that winning is all that matters
PLAYER RATINGS: How was the Wallabies performed in Bledisloe IV
KEEPING GROUNDED: Rennie says Wallabies won't get carried away with Bledisloe win