Fan-friendly early kick-off times in New Zealand are the feature of the 2020 Investec Super Rugby draw announced by Sanzaar today.
New Zealand Rugby (NZR) will literally wind back the clock in 2020 to celebrate its 25th year with a total of 24 Friday and Saturday matches shifted forward to 7.05pm from the traditional 7.35pm time slot and a further eight matches scheduled for a 4.45pm start.
The 2020 season kicks off at Eden Park on Friday, 31 January where the Blues will play the Chiefs at 7.05pm. The Crusaders, Highlanders, Chiefs and Hurricanes will follow suit with home games in the new time slot during the first three weeks of the season.
for the full 2020 Super Rugby match schedule
NZR Chief Rugby Officer Nigel Cass said the change to earlier kick off times had been driven by fan feedback.
“Our fans told us quite clearly they’d prefer matches to start and finish earlier. All five of our Investec Super Rugby clubs have listened and both our Sanzaar partners and Sky agreed to the changes.
“For families and for those with young kids in particular, a later kick off can present some challenges, especially when the weather doesn’t come to the party. The earlier kick off times mean matches will finish a little earlier, which we think is a bit more fan friendly for everyone.”
Cass said NZR reached out to thousands of fans and people involved in rugby as well as consulting with its Sanzaar partners and Sky as its broadcasting partner. The majority of matches in Australia will also move to an earlier timeslot.
Cass was looking forward to marking 25 years of Investec Super Rugby.
“There’s been some amazing moments and memories since Investec Super Rugby kicked off in 1996 and it’s going to be a lot of fun celebrating them during the 2020 season.
“Twenty-five years is a significant milestone and speaks to the longevity and popularity of a competition that continues to produce a new generation of young stars.”
New Zealand’s teams have contrasting starts to the season following the block-buster Blues-Chiefs derby match in Auckland.
The Crusaders will host the Waratahs at Trafalgar Park in Nelson at 7.05pm on Saturday, 1 February, while the Hurricanes play the Stormers at Newlands in Cape Town at 2.05am (NZT), Sunday, 2 February.
The Highlanders have the bye first up before hosting the Sharks at Forysth Barr Stadium in Dunedin to kick off Week 2 at 7.05pm on Friday, 7 February.
With World Rugby’s international Test match window for inbound tours to Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa now in July Investec Super Rugby will again be played uninterrupted across the 21-week tournament.
The Investec Super Rugby Finals series is scheduled to start on 6 June with the Final on 20 June.