The SANZAAR Executive Committee (Exco) has confirmed its commitment to Super Rugby and has released the match schedule for the restructured 2018 Super Rugby tournament. As announced in April this year the 2018 Super Rugby tournament will change from an 18-team, four conference format to a 15-team, three conference format.
Each team will play 16 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). The finals will comprise an eeight-team seven match series.
New Zealand Conference:
Blues, Chiefs, Crusaders, Highlanders, Hurricanes
Brumbies, Rebels, Reds, Waratahs, Sunwolves
South African Conference:
Bulls, Lions, Sharks, Stormers, Jaguares.
The 2018 Super Rugby tournament starts on Saturday 17 February when the South African Conference kicks-off with the Stormers hosting the Jaguares in Cape Town. The Lions, runners-up the last two years, host the Sharks in Johannesburg, while Bulls have a bye.
The Australian and New Zealand Conferences will kick-off a week later when the defending champions the Crusaders open their defence of their title at home against the Chiefs. The Brumbies, last year’s Australian Conference winner, open the season against the Sunwolves in Tokyo who are now positioned in the Australian Conference.
Because the South African Conference kicks off a week earlier than in Australia and New Zealand, all four local teams will have a bye between the final pool match before the June Test break, and the Springboks’ opening Test against England.
This will be the last time that Super Rugby will break for the June Tests, as 2019 is a Rugby World Cup year and in 2020, the midyear Tests will move to July.