Australians to start Super season earlier
Chiefs, Highlanders open NZ play
Next year's Super Rugby draw has been tweaked to suit the needs of Australia hosting the tour by the British & Irish Lions.
The season starts on February 15 - a week earlier than this year - but the opening round will feature only four Australian teams.
The same will occur in Round 17 (just before the Super Rugby season breaks for the June inbound tours), while Rounds 18 and 19 (after the break) will feature only New Zealand and South African conference teams.
The Wallabies will play their test matches against the Lions on different dates to the normal June inbound schedules because it is a full tour incorporating provincial matches.
"The Lions tour to Australia presented some unique challenges in preparing the 2013 Super Rugby draw," Sanzar CEO Greg Peters said.
"We are very appreciative of cooperation we received from the national unions and broadcasters in preparing this draw and working through the issues.
"The emphasis in early rounds is again on local derbies that have again proven to be the most watched and attended matches in 2012."
The defending champion Chiefs begin their campaign in Dunedin against the Highlanders on Friday, February 22, the same evening the Rebels host the Reds in Melbourne.
The Bulls and the Stormers kick off the South African Conference in Pretoria, later that night.
New South African team the Southern Kings host the Rebels in Port Elizabeth the next day when the Hurricanes also host the Blues in Wellington.
The Crusaders have struck a dud start with an early bye, effectively meaning they don't start their campaign until the third week of the championship.
The season will consist of 125 matches with 40 matches on New Zealand soil next year, and 20 Kiwi derbies.
The finals series starts on July 19, with the final played on Saturday, August 3
- © Fairfax NZ News
Should there be golden point extra time in Super Rugby?Related story: (See story)