The draw for the 2021 Sky Super Rugby Aotearoa has been revealed with one major change to this year’s inaugural tournament – the staging of a winner-takes-all final for the Tu Kotahi Aotearoa trophy. Super Rugby Aotearoa II will kick off in Dunedin on Friday, February 26, with the Highlanders hosting defending champion Crusaders. The Hurricanes and Blues then meet at Sky Stadium in Wellington the following day.

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The Chiefs will have the opening round bye before hosting the Highlanders at FMG Stadium Waikato in Hamilton on Friday, March 5. All 21 Sky Super Rugby Aotearoa matches – including the final on Saturday, May 8 – will be live and exclusive via Sky, the competition’s new naming rights sponsor.

Chris Lendrum, NZR’s professional rugby and performance general manager, said: “We saw how exciting this home and away format was last season, and all five teams now know what is 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.

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Danes Coles and Anton Lienert-Brown at an All Blacks media conference

“It’s fantastic to have some certainty for fans, players and partners after what has been a year of uncertainty. Confirming the 2021 draw is a significant milestone and a positive step for rugby in New Zealand and we are thrilled to have our broadcast partner Sky come on board as naming rights sponsor.”

Lendrum also confirmed NZR is working closely with Rugby Australia on a trans-Tasman competition and would announce details shortly. A feature of the Sky Super Rugby Aotearoa 2021 draw is four family-friendly Sunday afternoon kick-offs, two at Eden Park in Auckland and one each at Wellington’s Sky Stadium and at Orangetheory Stadium in Christchurch (click here to view the full draw).

Each team will have four home matches and two byes, with the final between the top two qualifying teams scheduled for Saturday, 8 May. “We’ve listened to the fans and our players and added a final, which we think will provide a fitting climax to the competition,” Lendrum said.

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Mike Anthony, NZR’s head of high performance, confirmed the All Blacks would be available from round one. “The later start date for Sky Super Rugby Aotearoa means our players will be ready to go on the start line, which is a good result for everyone. From a high-performance point of view, it will once again give us an ideal platform to assess our top playing talent going head to head in a high-quality competition.”

Martin Stewart, Sky’s CEO, said: “Sky Super Rugby Aotearoa is a world-class competition featuring many of the best players in the world and our coverage and analysis needs to mirror this action on the field. We’ll be looking to take fans even closer to the action in every aspect in 2021 and we can’t wait for the first match.”

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