- Publish Date
- Wednesday, 11 November 2020, 9:52AM
The Super Rugby Aotearoa 2021 schedule has been revealed and it has one major change from this year's successful tournament - a final.
The 2020 edition was robbed of a completed schedule when the second Covid-19 lockdown saw the final match between the Blues and Crusaders at Eden Park cancelled.
The Crusaders had already locked away the new trophy the previous weekend with a victory over the Highlanders. Next season's tournament will see the top two sides meet to decide the champions.
The 2021 will kick off with an old fashioned southern derby in a return to Friday night football.
The schedule for the second installment of the domestic competition has been announced, with 10 weeks of New Zealand derbies beginning on Friday February 26, with the Highlanders hosting the Crusaders in Dunedin.
The first round will finish with the Hurricanes entertaining the Blues in Wellington on Saturday February 27, while the Chiefs enjoy the bye in the opening week.
The Waikato franchise will begin their campaign in round two against the Highlanders in Hamilton.
Auckland rugby fans will have to wait a bit before they get to see action, with the Blues' first home game at Eden Park coming in round three against the Highlanders.
There is a mixture of matches spread across all three weekend days, maintaining the popular Sunday afternoon clashes that returned in 2020.
The final between the top two sides after 10 weeks will take place on Saturday May 8, contending the Tū Kōtahi Aotearoa trophy.
New Zealand Rugby General Manager Professional Rugby & Performance Chris Lendrum said next year's competition will build on the foundation the 2020 tournament laid.
"We saw how exciting this home and away format was ... all five teams now know what's required to compete and win every week. With the availability of the All Blacks locked in for round one there are going to be fireworks from the opening whistle.
"It's fantastic to have some certainty for fans, players and partners after what's been a year of uncertainty. Confirming the 2021 draw is a significant milestone and a positive step for rugby in New Zealand and we're thrilled to have our broadcast partner Sky come on board as naming rights sponsor.
"We've listened to the fans and our players and added a Final, which we think will provide a fitting climax to the competition."
With four consecutive titles under their belt, the Crusaders are set to enter the competition as favourites once again.
NZ Rugby is also working closely with Rugby Australia over transtasman matches between respective Super Rugby sides, and more details will be released shortly.
2021 Super Rugby Aotearoa schedule:
Highlanders vs Crusaders, Dunedin – Friday February 26, 7.05pm
Hurricanes vs Blues, Wellington – Saturday February 27, 7.05pm
Chiefs vs Highlanders, Hamilton – Friday March 5, 7.05pm
Crusaders v Hurricanes, Christchurch – Saturday March 6, 7.05pm
Crusaders vs Chiefs, Christchurch – Saturday March 13, 7.05pm
Blues vs Highlanders, Auckland – Sunday March 14, 3.35pm
Hurricanes vs Chiefs, Wellington – Saturday March 20, 7.05pm
Blues vs Crusaders, Auckland –Sunday March 21, 3.35pm
Highlanders vs Hurricanes, Dunedin – Friday March 26, 7.05pm
Chiefs vs Blues, Hamilton – Saturday March 27, 7.05pm
Round 6 (Easter Weekend)
Crusaders vs Highlanders, Christchurch – Friday April 2, 7.05pm
Blues vs Hurricanes, Auckland – Saturday April 3, 7.05pm
Highlanders vs Chiefs, Dunedin – Saturday April 10, 7.05PM
Hurricanes vs Crusaders, Wellington – Sunday April 11, 3.35pm
Highlanders vs Blues, Dunedin – Friday April 16, 7.05pm
Chiefs vs Crusaders, Hamilton – Saturday April 17, 7.05pm
Round 9 (Anzac weekend)
Chiefs vs Hurricanes, Hamilton – Friday April 23, 7.05pm
Crusaders vs Blues, Christchurch – Sunday April 25, 3.35pm
Hurricanes vs Highlanders, Wellington – Friday April 30, 7.05pm
Blues vs Chiefs, Auckland – Saturday May 1, 7.05pm
Saturday May 8
This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission