RA and NZR have confirmed the formation of Super Rugby Pacific after months of discussions and speculation.
The 12-team tournament will see Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika join the five Australian and five New Zealand sides, set to kick off on 18 February 2022.
Teams will play each other once across the 14-week regular season, along with playing three teams twice, with an added focus on delivering more local derbies following the success of Super Rugby AU and Aotearoa.
The final series will see the top eight teams battle it out, with quarters, semis and final as follows:
- Quarterfinals – 1 v 8, 2 v 7, 3 v 6 and 4 v 5 with the top ranked team hosting
- Semi-Finals – top ranked quarter-final winner hosts against lowest ranked quarter-final winner & 2nd highest ranked quarterfinal winner hosts 3rd highest ranked quarterfinal winner
- Final – top ranked semi-final winner hosts the other semi-final winner
Fiji Rugby Union will announce where Fijian Drua home matches will be played shortly, while Moana Pasifika will play their home fixtures primarily in New Zealand.
"We're thrilled to confirm the competition model for next year and beyond and want to thank NZR for their hard work and effort along with Fijian and Moana Pasifika for their patience, and the effort that has been put into their proposals," RA CEO Andy Marinos said.
"I want to thank Mike and Martin at Nine and Stan for their endorsement of the competition as well as Foreign Minister Marise Payne and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for their terrific support.
"This is a game-changer for Rugby in the Pacific, and indeed, the rest of the Rugby world. We have seen the brilliant rugby that Fiji play in all formats of the game and their inclusion will make this new competition one of the toughest in the world."
New Zealand Rugby General Manager Professional Rugby & High Performance Chris Lendrum added: “We are entering an incredibly exciting new phase for rugby in the Pacific region. The trans-Tasman rivalries are crucial to our sport in the Southern Hemisphere, and the existing Super Rugby clubs have built a wonderful history and legacy over 26 years.
“Moana Pasifika and the Fijian Drua will add an enormous amount of energy, skill and talent to the competition, not to mention a passionate support base.The Pasifika nations have added so much to world rugby over the years and this is an opportunity to enhance the standing of Pasifika rugby.
“Fans are going to see incredible skill and physicality, and the regular season and finals series will undoubtedly unearth the best side in the tournament."
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All 91 matches will be ad-free, live and on demand on Stan Sport with the Saturday night match in each round simulcast free-to-air on the Nine Network.
“After a fantastic start for Rugby on Stan Sport, we are looking forward to showcasing the new Super Rugby competition format," Stan Acting Chief Executive Officer Martin Kugeler said.
"We saw interest and viewership of Super Rugby significantly increase this year on Stan Sport and Nine, and we expect this new twelve team competition, with the addition of both Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika, to resonate well with fans. Stan Sport as Australia’s home of rugby can’t wait to bring this new look Super Rugby competition to fans next year.”
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women, Senator the Hon Marise Payne said DFAT’s partnership with Rugby Australia and the Fijian Drua will build careers for generations of talent and attract investment to support Fiji’s economic recovery from COVID-19.
“While the health security of our near neighbours remains a critical priority, sport helps facilitate the region’s cultural and economic recovery and keeps our countries connected,” Minister Payne said.
“As demonstrated at the Tokyo Olympics, Fiji has some of the most talented rugby players in the world and deserves to have this showcased on the global stage."
Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Senator the Hon Zed Seselja said the partnership reinforces the strong bonds between Australia and Fiji.
“Australia and Fiji share a proud history of a friendly rivalry in rugby union stretching back 70 years. Supporting the Fiji Drua in Super Rugby is an exciting new chapter for rugby fans, and for our nations,” Minister Seselja said.
RUPA Chief Executive Justin Harrison said: "It is pleasing to have a confirmed a new format to move into 2022, and to provide certainty for the participants and supporter base.
“Australian and New Zealand teams have a strong history of Pacific heritage representation; the inclusion of Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika reflects the strength of the Pacific Island rugby talent participation.
"The addition of the Moana Pasifika and Fijian Drua sides are a celebration of our game, its people, and its future."