The world’s best provincial competition will kick off a new era next year with Super Rugby Pacific set to take the game to fresh heights, following agreement between Rugby Australia (RA) and New Zealand Rugby (NZR)
Set to kick-off on 18 February 2022, the new 12-team competition welcomes the introduction of Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika who will join the five Australian and five New Zealand sides and will be delivered by the joint venture partnership between RA and NZR.
All 91 matches will be ad-free, live and on demand on Stan Sport with the Saturday night match in each round also simulcast free-to-air on the Nine Network.
The competition structure for Super Rugby Pacific will be as follows:
- 12 teams (alphabetical order) with Blues, Brumbies, Chiefs, Crusaders, Fijian Drua, Highlanders, Hurricanes, Melbourne Rebels, Moana Pasifika, NSW Waratahs, Queensland Reds, Western Force
- 18-week competition window from 18 February to 18 June 2022 and 24 February to 24 June 2023
- 91 matches in total
- Teams will play 14 regular season matches with each team to host seven matches
- Teams will play 8 teams once and 3 teams twice with a focus on derby matches
- One competition table with teams ranked 1 to 12 based on competition points
- Three-week playoff format involving the top eight teams on the overall competition table with quarters, semis and final as follows:
- Quarterfinals – 1 v 8, 2 v 7, 3 v 6 and 4 v 5 with the top ranked team hosting
- Semi-Finals – top ranked quarter-final winner hosts against lowest ranked quarter-final winner & 2nd highest ranked quarterfinal winner hosts 3rd highest ranked quarterfinal winner
- Final – top ranked semi-final winner hosts the other semi-final winner
The Fijian Drua had previously competed in Australia's National Rugby Championship, winning the title in 2018. Their inclusion was confirmed thanks to the support of Rugby Australia and New Zealand Rugby as well as that of the Australian Government's PacificAus Sports program.
Fiji Rugby Union will announce where Fijian Drua home matches will be played shortly, while Moana Pasifika will play their home fixtures primarily in New Zealand. Super Rugby Pacific’s two new entrants will play each other twice in the first two seasons with other examples where teams play twice to be determined by a seeding process based on 2021 results, with an emphasis on local derbies.
Rugby Australia CEO Andy Marinos said: "We're thrilled to confirm the competition model for next year and beyond and want to thank NZR for their hard work and effort along with Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika for their patience, and the effort that has been put into their proposals.
"I want to thank Mike and Martin at Nine and Stan for their endorsement of the competition as well as Foreign Minister Marise Payne and the Australian Government for their terrific support.
"This is a game-changer for Rugby in the Pacific, and indeed, the rest of the Rugby world. We have seen the brilliant rugby that Fiji play in all formats of the game and their inclusion will make this new competition one of the toughest in the world,” Marinos said.
Stan Acting Chief Executive Officer Martin Kugeler said: “After a fantastic start for Rugby on Stan Sport, we are looking forward to showcasing the new Super Rugby competition format. We saw interest and viewership of Super Rugby significantly increase this year on Stan Sport and Nine, and we expect this new twelve team competition, with the addition of both Fiji Drua and Moana Pasifika, to resonate well with fans. As Australia’s home of rugby, Stan Sport can’t wait to bring this new look Super Rugby competition to fans next year.”
RUPA Chief Executive Justin Harrison said: "It is pleasing to have a confirmed a new format to move into 2022, and to provide certainty for the participants and supporter base.
“Australian and New Zealand teams have a strong history of Pacific heritage representation; the inclusion of Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika reflects the strength of the Pacific Island rugby talent participation.The addition of the Moana Pasifika and Fijian Drua sides are a celebration of our game, its people, and its future,” Harrison said.
Queensland Rugby Union CEO David Hanham said: "This is a significant step forward for Australian Super Rugby teams and the broader competition as we continue to navigate the post-pandemic world.
"The addition of two teams within our region competing in an 18-week tournament with seven home games will enable our clubs to further grow their supporter base and develop lifelong connections with their respective rugby communities.
"Having had the Drua in the National Rugby Championship and now being promoted to Super Rugby highlights that Australia has a strong professional pathway in place," Hanham said.
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women, Senator the Hon Marise Payne said DFAT’s partnership with Rugby Australia and the Fijian Drua will build careers for generations of talent and attract investment to support Fiji’s economic recovery from COVID-19.
“While the health security of our near neighbours remains a critical priority, sport helps facilitate the region’s cultural and economic recovery and keeps our countries connected,” Minister Payne said.
“As demonstrated at the Tokyo Olympics, Fiji has some of the most talented rugby players in the world and deserves to have this showcased on the global stage."
Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Senator the Hon Zed Seselja said the partnership reinforces the strong bonds between Australia and Fiji.
“Australia and Fiji share a proud history of a friendly rivalry in rugby union stretching back 70 years. Supporting the Fiji Drua in Super Rugby is an exciting new chapter for rugby fans, and for our nations,” Minister Seselja said.
New Zealand Rugby General Manager Professional Rugby & High Performance Chris Lendrum said: “We are entering an incredibly exciting new phase for rugby in the Pacific region. The trans-Tasman rivalries are crucial to our sport in the Southern Hemisphere, and the existing Super Rugby clubs have built a wonderful history and legacy over 26 years.
“Moana Pasifika and the Fijian Drua will add an enormous amount of energy, skill and talent to the competition, not to mention a passionate support base. The Pasifika nations have added so much to world rugby over the years and this is an opportunity to enhance the standing of Pasifika rugby.
“Fans are going to see incredible skill and athleticism, and the regular season and finals series will undoubtedly unearth the best side in the tournament.”