Expansion team Moana Pasifika to host Super Rugby opener
SYDNEY (AP) — The two expansion clubs will feature heavily in the first round of next year’s Super Rugby competition with Moana Pasifika hosting the Brumbies in the tournament opener and the Fijian Drua taking on the defending champion Blues.
Both games will be in Auckland.
Moana Pasifika, based at Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland, faces the Canberra-based Brumbies on Feb. 18 in a match that pits ex-Wallabies playmaker Christian Leali’ifano against his former Australian club.
The Fijian Drua, to be based in Australia’s Queensland state for the 2022 season, will take on the Auckland-based Blues at Eden Park in the first of four first-round match on Feb. 19.
The Queensland Reds, winners of last season’s Australian competition, will open at home against the Chiefs, while the Perth-based Force and Melbourne-based Rebels meet in an Australian derby and the Christchurch-based Crusaders and Dunedin-based Highlanders open with a New Zealand derby.
Super Rugby Pacific will comprise five teams from each of Australia and New Zealand, plus the two Pacific clubs.
The second round will be played entirely in Melbourne and be promoted as the Super Round, with six games played across three days from Feb. 25-27 at the Rebel’s home stadium.
The season will run for 18 weeks, including a three-week playoff series.
“The draw reflects the new look and feel of the competition, whether it’s the historic opening match, the Super Round, the traditional rivalries that have built up over more than 20 years, or the first time Moana Pasifika and the Fijian Drua go head-to-head,” Chris Lendrum, New Zealand’s general manager for professional rugby, said. “We have two new clubs who are building competitive squads right now, and 10 other clubs who are excited by a fresh challenge.”
Super Rugby in the professional era expanded from a 12-team, three-nation competition into a four-continent league featuring teams from Argentina, South Africa, Japan, New Zealand and Australia until it was shelved last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
New Zealand and Australia restarted their own domestic five-team Super Rugby tournaments before restoring the international element with Super Rugby Trans-Tasman in 2021.
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