The Bulls will host the Stormers at Loftus Versfeld in the opening Super Rugby game in South Africa next year. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

SYDNEY – The opening round of the 2019 Super Rugby tournament will see matches being played in five countries on the weekend of February 15 and 16.

Such is the tournament’s footprint that New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, South Africa and Argentina will all be hosting matches on the opening weekend.

The tournament will begin on Friday, February 15, when the Chiefs host the Highlanders in Hamilton, New Zealand with the final set for Saturday, July 6. 

The updated schedule includes the match venues that have now all been confirmed by the teams and the respective kickoff times. 

Sanzaar chief executive Andy Marinos said: “As there will be no June inbound international matches in 2019, due to Rugby World Cup in Japan later in the year, Super Rugby will run uninterrupted for 21 weeks from February to July. 

“This is a huge plus for the tournament next year, and there will also be a uniform start to the tournament in Round 1, with a full round of seven matches to kick off Super Rugby.” 

The first round will see matches played in five countries with Hamilton (New Zealand) joined as a host city by Canberra (Brumbies v Rebels, Australia), Auckland (Blues v Crusaders, New Zealand), Sydney (Waratahs v Hurricanes, Australia), Singapore (Sunwolves v Sharks), Pretoria (Bulls v Stormers, South Africa) and Buenos Aires (Jaguares v Lions, Argentina). 

There are also several matches in regional areas, with a Round 3 match in Palmerston North (New Zealand) between the Hurricanes and Brumbies, a Round 7 match in Newcastle (Australia) between the Waratahs and Sunwolves, while in Round 18 Invercargill (New Zealand) will host the Highlanders v Waratahs match.

The tournament’s 15-team, three-Conference format remains the same as last year. 

Each team plays 16 regular season 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). 

Each team also has two byes. This is a total of 120 matches in the regular season that will be followed by a seven-match, eight-team finals series.

The finals series will also remain unchanged with each of the three Conference winners qualifying for and hosting a quarterfinal. 

The team with the most tournament points that is not a Conference winner, regardless of Conference, will host the fourth quarterfinal. 

This wildcard team will be joined in the quarterfinals by the next best four wildcard teams based on tournament points and regardless of Conference.

2019 Super Rugby Conferences

Australia: Brumbies, Rebels, Reds, Waratahs, Sunwolves. 

New Zealand: Blues, Chiefs, Crusaders, Highlanders, Hurricanes

South Africa: Bulls, Lions, Sharks, Stormers, Jaguares.

African News Agency (ANA)