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Unwanted record arrives for Chiefs but but will they hold it by season's end?

By Tom Vinicombe
(Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

The latest change to the Super Rugby Pacific calendar, which sees the Chiefs take on Moana Pasifika at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday evening, has resulted in an extension of a somewhat unwanted Super Rugby record.

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While the Chiefs were set to play the Hurricanes in Hamilton on Sunday (rescheduled from a Saturday kick-off), that match has been postponed until later in the season to allow the Moana Pasifika to get just their second game under their belts, with the game shifted from the Waikato to South Auckland. As such, Saturday’s fixture will mark the seventh time on the trot that the Chiefs have had to play away from home.

Last year, the Chiefs played their final three matches in Australia after Covid prevented sides from regularly traversing the Tasman Sea. It was a tough end to the year for the squad, who managed just six home games across the entirety of the season.

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What it’s like being the only non-Fijian player in the Fijian Drua.

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What it’s like being the only non-Fijian player in the Fijian Drua.

This year, the opening two rounds of fixtures were supposed to take place in Dunedin and Queenstown and although the Chief were the designated home side for their Round 1 clash with the Highlanders, the game was played in the territory of the away team. At best, the location could be considered neutral, with no supporters able to turn out for either side.

The Chiefs’ Round 2 clash with Moana Pasifika was postponed and their subsequent games have been played at North Harbour Stadium against the Blues and Orangetheory Stadium against the Crusaders. Add on the Chiefs’ fourth clash of the year this weekend, at Mt Smart Stadium in South Auckland, and the Chiefs well and truly hold the record for the most games played in a row away from home.

The damage caused by the Christchurch earthquakes in 2011 saw the Crusaders unable to play their home games at their primary stadium in Christchurch. While they did travel further afield for some of their hosted matches – playing in Napier and even at Twickenham – other matches were played in Nelson and Timaru, which both fall under the team’s home area. As such, the Crusaders went fives game in a row without playing a match inside their own territory.

In 2012, the Sharks were the bottom-seeded side heading into the competition play-offs and had to play three finals matches on the road, eventually succumbing to the Chiefs in Hamilton in the grand final. While they had played their last regular season match of 2012 at home, they had to travel to Bloemfontein for their opening fixture of the following season, taking their tally of away games to four on the trot. That, however, is not dissimilar to a normal South African tour to Oceania in recent years, where travelling sides would often play two games in Australia and two in New Zealand before returning home.

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Thankfully for the Chiefs, next weekend’s rematch with the Crusaders is set to be played in Hamilton, all things going to plan, and there is a chance that at least a small group of supporters will be allowed on deck for what’s shaping as another mammoth clash between the two rivals.

That match will put a stopper on the Chiefs’ record run of away matches and there’s a very high chance that the Fijian Drua will surpass it later this season. Due to the ongoing effects of Covid, the Drua only have one game set to take place in Fiji this year, with the Highlanders due to travel to Suva in Round 11. Assuming that match does go ahead, the Drua will have played their first nine games of their inaugural year in Super Rugby away from home.

This weekend, the Drua will take on the Western Force at their current ‘home’ ground of Leichhardt Oval in Sydney.

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finn 5 hours ago
Massive red flag raised by weakened Champions Cup teams – Andy Goode

I wonder if the problem of some teams not taking it that seriously would be helped by making performance in the champions cup count towards qualification and/or seeding in the following year’s competition. Eg. top four seeds would be winners of the URC, premiership, and top 14, plus best performing team in the previous year’s CC who have not otherwise qualified. Doing that the seedings for this years comp. would have been: Tier one: Saracens - Munster - Toulouse - la Rochelle Tier two: Sale - Stormers - Racing 92 - Leinster Tier three: Leicester - Connacht - Bordeaux - Exeter Tier four: Northampton - Ulster - Lyon - Sharks Tier five: Harlequins - Glasgow - Stade Francais - Edinburgh Tier six: Bath - Bulls - Toulon - Ospreys The competition would probably work better with fewer teams, so I’d probably favour only the first 4 tiers being invited, and then going straight to a quarter final without a round of 16. On the one hand this would possibly incentivise teams to take the champions cup seriously, and on the other it would mean that the latter stages would be more likely to involve teams that have demonstrated a willingness to take the competition seriously. The main differences between my proposed system and the actual draw is that mine would give la Rochelle a fairly easy ride to the quarters, and would either exclude the Bulls entirely or would give then an insurmountably difficult draw. As it happened Exeter got quite an easy pool draw but that was a bit of a fluke. My system would reward Exeter for being one of the teams that demonstrably devote a lot of attention to the CC by guaranteeing them a good draw.

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