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Rugby | Vodacom Super Rugby

Bulls, Stormers hit road early



The Vodacom Bulls and DHL Stormers will be hitting the road early when the new revamped Vodacom Super Rugby competition swings into action from the middle of next February.

The Stormers and the Emirates Lions have home games on the first weekend, with the Stormers hosting the Jaguares and the Lions hosting the appetising home derby against the Cell C Sharks on Saturday, 17 February. The Bulls will have a bye in the first round before starting their campaign by hosting the Hurricanes in Pretoria.

It will be the first match for both Loftus protagonists as the Kiwi and Australian teams, plus the Sunwolves, only start playing in the second week. By then the Stormers will be in Sydney, where they face the Waratahs on 24 February before crossing the Tasman Sea to face off against the tournament champions, the Crusaders, probably in Christchurch, before heading to Dunedin to play the Highlanders.

It’s a tough opening for Robbie Fleck’s men but then there are benefits to getting the overseas tour behind you early in the competition. The Bulls leave for overseas two weeks after the Stormers – they host the Lions in a Gauteng derby before that – and face away fixtures against the Reds in Brisbane, the Chiefs (probably Hamilton) and the Crusaders before returning home.

CLICK HERE for the initial fixture list

The Lions, beaten finalists last year, will be travelling towards the end of April and will be pleased that unlike the Bulls and Stormers, who face two Kiwi teams on their tour of Australasia, they will be playing two games against Australian sides – the Waratahs and the Reds – and just one against a New Zealand side (Hurricanes).

With Australia’s participation being cut by one team next year it is possible their challenge will strengthen in 2018, but on the basis of what has happened in recent seasons, it would appear to be the Cell C Sharks who have the easiest away tour. They travel from mid-March with their ports of call being Canberra (Brumbies), Melbourne (Rebels) and Auckland (Blues).

The tournament has been cut from an 18-team two conference system to one comprising 15 teams and three conferences. Each team will play 16 matches, with eight games on a home and away basis within the conference and then four matches against teams from each of the other two conferences.

There will still be eight teams playing in the Finals Series, which effectively means you can end more than half way down the combined log and still have a chance of winning the main event.

A structural reform has been implemented where responsibility for the Sunwolves will move from the Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU) to the entity known as Japan Super Rugby Association (JSRA). This has been done in a quest to improve the competitiveness of the Japanese team, which survived the cut from the competition even though teams that performed better than them – Cheetahs, Kings and Western Force – were cut. SANZAAR will now take a more pro-active role in the operation of the team.

The competition kicks off earlier in South Africa so that there can be a two week gap between the last pool game of the first phase of competition and the series that the Springboks will play against England during the June break. This will be the last time there is a June break because 2019 is a World Cup year and from 2020 the incoming tours will be scheduled for July.



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