Melbourne will go from famine to feast with the rugby-starved capital to host all 12 teams in Super Rugby Pacific’s version of the NRL’s Magic Round in late February.
Moana Pasifika and Fijian Drua have joined an expanded 12-team competition, with the Australian and Kiwi teams reuniting following an easing of COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Kicking off on Friday February 18 with the Brumbies and Moana Pasifika meeting at Auckland’s Mt Smart Stadium, teams will play 14 matches before an eight-team finals format over three weeks.
“Super Round” will be played at the Rebels’ home ground, AAMI Park, with three days of double headers between Friday February 25 to Sunday 27 – following the NRL’s concept of Magic Round, when all teams play at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.
Melbourne last played at AAMI Park against the Blues in the Trans-Tasman competition in May but only managed six Super Rugby AU games at home in two years due to the COVID outbreak in Victoria.
New Rebels coach Kevin Foote said his team were looking forward to finally “putting roots down”.
“Just to be back in Melbourne, we’ve been starved of rugby and to have all the teams coming in in round two, it’s going to be awesome,” he told AAP.
“Our first home game, against the Brumbies on Sunday as part of the Super Round, will be cool but just to be home in Melbourne with our families and fans is big for us.
“Some of our players say they’ve played more away than AAMI and they don’t even know it and it feels like an away ground.
“We want to put our roots down and get some traditions and rituals around playing at home.”
SUPER RUGBY PACIFIC AT A GLANCE
* 12 teams: Moana Pasifika, Fijian Drua, Blues, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Crusaders, Highlanders, Waratahs, Reds, Force, Brumbies, Rebels
* 14 regular season matches
* One bye round per team (all byes in Rounds 7, 8 & 9)
* 8 team playoffs format (QFs: 1 v 8, 2 v 7, 3 v 6, 4 v 5)
* Total Matches: 91 – Season Length: 18 weeks – 15-week regular season plus three-week play-off series
Opening match: Friday 18 February: Moana Pasifika v Brumbies, Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland
Super Round: Round 2, Friday-Sunday 25-27 February at AAMI Park, Melbourne – Moana Pasifika v Waratahs; Highlanders v Blues; Hurricanes v Chiefs; Crusaders v Reds; Rebels v Brumbies; Fijian Drua v Force.