Argentina, Japan to enter Super Rugby comp next year
THE Melbourne Rebels will make history on March 19 next year when they become the first Australian Super Rugby franchise to play a game for points in Tokyo, taking on the new Japanese team.
Argentina will also field a side for the first time and will take on the Cheetahs and Sharks in the first two rounds in South Africa, before a bye in round three and then a historic first home game against the Chiefs on March 19.
The inclusion of teams from Japan and Argentina, as well as the return of South African franchise the Kings, will see the competition expanded to 18 teams, split into an Australian conference (five teams), a New Zealand conference (five teams), and two South African conferences (four teams each). One will be made up of the Bulls, Cheetahs, Stormers and the Japanese team, and the other will consist of the Kings, Lions, Sharks and the team from Argentina.
Under the new format, each team is guaranteed to play every other side in the competition over a two-year cycle.
The draw for 2016 will see each of the five Australian teams play six matches within their own conference, five against teams in the New Zealand conference and four against those in the South African conferences. They will also have two byes across 17 rounds.
The season will kick off on Friday, February 26, with three games.
The Blues will host defending champions the Highlanders, the Brumbies will be at home to the Hurricanes and the Cheetahs will host Argentina in Bloemfontein.