Chiefs not planning on taking another Super Rugby match to Fiji for 2018 season
The Chiefs are not planning on a return to Fiji for Super Rugby in 2018, with their marquee home matchup against the Crusaders likely to come back to Hamilton.
For the past two years the franchise has taken their big game, against what have become their fiercest rivals, to Suva, in a deal which reaped financial benefit, but left local fans missing out on attending the key derby.
The 2018 draw was announced on Thursday, and while none of the New Zealand sides have confirmed their venues for their eight home fixtures, the Chiefs aren't expecting to play in Fiji for a third successive year.
After the Fijian government invested NZ $1.6 million into a first-ever Super Rugby fixture in their country, the Chiefs beat the Crusaders 23-13 there in 2016 in front of a soldout 20,000 crowd.
The government then agreed to a three-year arrangement to host a match annually from 2017-2019, in what they saw as a prime opportunity to showcase their country as a tourism and sporting destination.
While the same two teams duked it out again this year, with the Crusaders winning 31-24 in front of 17,000, the Chiefs only committed for the 2017 season, so the next two years may well see a change in teams, with perhaps Australian sides featuring, even.
It all depends on who the promoters of the game - Fortress Information Systems - want to approach.
The home team is normally the promoter and retain gate revenue, though under this setup the teams get a share of the funds. Because it was the Chiefs' home game, they got a bigger slice, and it was a greater sum than they would have made from playing in front of a soldout FMG Stadium Waikato.
But, having done their part for two years, the franchise may want to return what is potentially their biggest game, back to their home fans. Though the bigger factor is that FIS may well be inclined to look to change things up and invite different teams.
"We have not been approached by the promoters, no," a Chiefs spokesperson said.
"We're carrying on to allocate our games as we normally would."
There is a two-month timeframe for the Kiwi sides to do that. Under the revamped competition format, teams will play 16 matches - one more than this year - with the Chiefs' home game number of eight remaining the same as this season.
The Chiefs are also looking to organise two pre-season games - one either side of the Brisbane 10s on February 9-10 - and whether they are home or away will depend on the opposition selected.
AT A GLANCE
Chiefs' 2018 Super Rugby draw (NZ times):
Rd 1, (SA conference only)
Rd 2, Sat Feb 24, 7.35pm, v Crusaders (away)
Rd 3, Fri Mar 2, 7.35pm, v Blues (away)
Rd 4, Bye
Rd 5, Fri Mar 16, 7.35pm, v Bulls (home)
Rd 6, Sat Mar 24, 5.15pm, v Sunwolves, Tokyo
Rd 7, Fri Mar 30, 7.35pm, v Highlanders (home)
Rd 8, Sat Apr 7, 7.35pm, v Blues, (home)
Rd 9, Fri Apr 13, 7.35pm, v Hurricanes (away)
Rd 10, Sat Apr 21, 9.45pm, v Reds, Brisbane
Rd 11, Bye
Rd 12, Fri May 4, 7.35pm, v Jaguares (home)
Rd 13, Sun May 13, 1.05am, v Stormers, Cape Town
Rd 14, Sun May 20, 1.05am, v Sharks, Durban
Rd 15, Sat May 26, 7.35pm, v Waratahs, (home)
Rd 16, Sat Jun 2, 7.35pm, v Crusaders (home)
Rd 17, Sat Jun 30, 7.35pm, v Highlanders (away)
Rd 18, Sat Jul 7, 5.15pm, v Brumbies (home)
Rd 19, Fri Jul 13, 7.35pm, v Hurricanes (home)