The 25th season of Vodacom Super Rugby season will kick off on Friday, 31 January 2020, with the first action on local soil a replay of the epic 2007 final between the Cell C Sharks and the Vodacom Bulls in Durban. The DHL Stormers and Emirates Lions will be in action the following day.
SANZAAR announced the match schedule for next year on Tuesday. In a major change from previous non-RWC years, the competition will run uninterrupted until the final on Saturday 20 June, as the traditional midyear Test window moves to a later slot from next year. Kick-off times for certain matches in New Zealand and Australia are also in an earlier timeslot than before.
In the opening match of the season, the Blues will host the Chiefs at Eden Park in Auckland, while the Brumbies will host the Reds at GIO Stadium in Canberra later on Friday 31 January. On Saturday, 1 February, the DHL Stormers will host the Hurricanes in Cape Town, and the Emirates Lions will travel to Buenos Aires for their season-opener, against 2019 runners-up, the Jaguares.
Vodacom Super Rugby’s continued international footprint will see matches played in six countries across the 18-week regular season, with matches played in Singapore, Japan, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
The World Rugby Test match window for inbound tours to Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa is now in July, which allows Vodacom Super Rugby to be played uninterrupted across the 21-week tournament timeframe.
Click here for the 2020 Vodacom Super Rugby match schedule.
SANZAAR CEO Andy Marinos said: “Vodacom Super Rugby is one of rugby’s premier tournaments and features many of the best teams and players in the world.
“The geographical spread of the teams across Argentina, Asia, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand entails substantial travel and tournament logistics making it the toughest tournament in the world.”
According to Marinos, the move of the inbound Test window from June to July next year allows for an uninterrupted Vodacom Super Rugby season, but the kick-off is now earlier to accommodate the 21-week tournament prior to the July window.
“With all this in mind, we have again worked with the national unions and teams through this complex logistical process to provide a draw that is fair and equitable,” said Marinos.
“Competition for quarter-final places this year was as close as it has ever been with three teams missing the eight-team quarter-finals by two points or less after 120 tournament matches, and we expect the same in 2020.
“The schedule has 21 match venues confirmed and it is exciting that Vodacom Super Rugby will once again venture into several new venues and cities.
“It has been confirmed that Hanazono Stadium, Osaka and Level Five Stadium, Fukuoka in Japan will host Sunwolves matches, while the Waratahs will play at WIN Stadium, Wollongong in Australia,” added Marinos.
Tournament Notes: The tournament’s 15-team, three-conference format remains the same in 2020. Each team plays 16 regular season conference matches that include eight matches within their own Conference (home and away) and four matches against teams from each of the other Conferences (home or away).
Each team also has two byes. This is a total of 120 matches in the regular season that will be followed by the seven-match, eight-team finals series.
Australia Conference: Brumbies, Rebels, Reds, Waratahs, Sunwolves (Japan)
New Zealand Conference: Blues, Chiefs, Crusaders, Highlanders, Hurricanes
South African Conference: Vodacom Bulls, Emirates Lions, Cell C Sharks, DHL Stormers, Jaguares (Argentina)
The Finals series will also remain unchanged with each of the three Conference winners qualifying for and hosting a quarter-final. The team with the most tournament points that is not a Conference winner, regardless of Conference, will host the fourth quarter-final.
This wildcard team will be joined in the quarter-finals by the next best four wildcard teams based on tournament points and regardless of Conference.