2014 Super Rugby draw
Rugby league convert Benji Marshall’s return to Sydney will come before the start of the Super 15 season, with the Waratahs to play a trial match against the former Wests Tigers five-eighth’s new club the Blues at Allianz Stadium on February 7.
The Waratahs, who are aiming for an ambitious top-two finish next season, will then meet Marshall’s Auckland-based side again in an Anzac Day match at Eden Park when the season proper gets underway.
The Brumbies will also have an Anzac Day clash, taking on title-holders the Chiefs at Canberra Stadium in a grand final rematch.
The 2014 Super Rugby draw, released on Tuesday, also confirms that Sunday afternoon rugby will continue in Sydney next year, with the Waratahs to host the Western Force, the Highlanders and the Lions in the popular 4.05pm time slot at Allianz Stadium.
NSW play their first Sunday afternoon game against the Force in their first match of the season before welcoming the Highlanders and Lions in May and July respectively.
The three 4.05pm fixtures are a win for the Waratahs, who have been chasing more afternoon matches to lure back families, although there is a question mark over the quality of opposition teams in each game.
The Force and Highlanders earned the wooden spoon in their respective conferences this year while next season marks the Johannesburg-based Lions’ return to the competition after a promotion-relegation battle with fellow strugglers the Southern Kings.
This year’s Sunday afternoon games against the Blues and Force drew crowds nearly half the size of the afternoon games in 2012, which were played against the Crusaders and Sharks before 30,663 and 18,830 people respectively.
The Waratahs finished ninth on the competition ladder this year and third in the Australian conference behind the Brumbies and Reds.
The competition kicks off with a South Africa-only round in the second week of February before Australia and New Zealand join in the next week.
The Waratahs play four derby matches to start the season, hosting the Reds at ANZ Stadium after their Sunday game against the Force, before heading to Canberra to play the Brumbies then home again to host the Rebels. A round-four bye breaks up the block.
SANZAR chief executive Greg Peters said the scheduling was built around domestic derbies as much as possible.
“They have proven to be tremendous drawcards to establish early momentum and start the competition with the tribalism and passion that Super Rugby is renowned for,” Peters said.
The Waratahs then hit the road for three weeks, playing the Sharks in Durban and the Stormers in Cape Town before stopping in Perth to play the Force a second time.
The Bulls then travel to Sydney to play NSW in the third of four weeks on the road for the three-time Super Rugby champions.
Next, the Waratahs hit the road again to play the Blues in the first Anzac Day match since 2009 before coming home for three weeks, including their second bye.
They finish the regular season away, playing the Rebels in Melbourne in round 15 and finishing with a clash against back-to-back champions the Chiefs.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.