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Undaunted South African Super Rugby teams are finally getting a new home in the Rainbow Cup

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The Springboks’ preparations for the British and Irish Lions Tour next year received a major boost as it was confirmed that 4 former Super Rugby teams would play in the Rainbow Cup against PRO14 clubs from the Northern Hemisphere.

The competition starts from 17 April next year. The Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stromers compete in games in the Northern Hemisphere against teams from South Africa and Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Italy.

Chris McKeon / Things

Aidan Park Turf, Aucklander’s Flock Stadium, is sold to collect its piece of sports history.

South Africa rugby director Rassie Erasmus said the timing of the Rainbow Cup was “perfect”, as it would provide stiff competition for the country’s best players ahead of the Lions tour.

“This will eventually bring our Super (Rugby) teams back to international competition after a year of absence and comes at an ideal time to prepare for the British and Irish Lions Tour,” Erasmus said.

Continue reading:
* * Why the Springboks should leave the rugby championship and join the Six Nations
* * The Springboxes will still not attend the Rugby Championship as the game begins in South Africa
* * The great Frans Stein of Springbok is pushing South African rugby to the north

He said, ‘This will be an edge in the domestic league and reminds our players of the different types of rugby when they live here.

“Our players will face a lot of players who will be on Warren Gatland’s roster and it will be very interesting to see our players adapt to the challenge.”

South African teams broke away from Super Rugby after NZ Rugby became clear as it wanted to move away from the competitive structure that had existed since 1996.

Following the cancellation of Super Rugby in March, NZ Rugby formed Super Rugby Auteroa and Rugby Australia also formed their separate league. This left the South African teams and Argentina’s Jaguars in the cold.

Springbok captain Sia Kolisi and South African rugby director Rassi Erasmus are celebrating winning the 2019 World Cup.

Gallo Images / Getty Images

Springbok captain Sia Kolisi and South African rugby director Rassi Erasmus are celebrating winning the 2019 World Cup.

Later, when Sanjar tried to start the Rugby Championship in Australia, the Springboks did not participate. As a result, the tournament was played between New Zealand, Australia and Argentina and was referred to as the Tri Nation.

The Springboks have not played since beating England in the 2019 World Cup final in Yokohama.

The Lions will play eight matches in South Africa from July 3 to August 7, the last three of which will be played against world champions Springboks.

The 16 teams of the Rainbow Cup will be divided into two groups of eight, consisting of two Irish, two South African, two Welsh, one Italian and one Scottish club.

Each team plays a game against each pool opponent and the teams that are at the top of their group face each other in the final on 19 June.

SA Rugby said negotiations were underway to allow South African teams to join PRO14 on a permanent basis, “and an update will be provided in due time”.

The current PRO14 season ends on March 27 with the finale.

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Super Rugby trans-Tasman: What you need to know about the New Zealand teams ahead of this season

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For the first time in over a year, Australia’s Super Rugby sides will face off against international opposition as the Super Rugby trans-Tasman season gets underway this weekend.

Of course, the shaky environment around the trans-Tasman travel bubble over the first month of its existence means that the competition may kick off this weekend, but there’s no guarantee we’ll get to the final on June 19. 

And the nature of randomly emerging new cases of COVID-19 in both Australia and New Zealand means it may not take much at all for the competition to be suspended in between.

But while it feels like an eternity since Australian teams last played international opposition, it’s actually not even 15 months ago.

A group of footballers hugging in celebration.
The Queensland Reds were the last Australian Super Rugby team to take on international opposition. (

AAP Image: Darren England

)

The Queensland Reds hosted South African team, the Bulls, in Brisbane on Saturday, March 14, 2020, and former Japanese side, the Sunwolves, faced the Crusaders beforehand in a hurriedly arranged double-header.

The week before, the Brumbies played the Sunwolves in Wollongong, the Reds played the Crusaders in Christchurch, the NSW Waratahs hosted the Chiefs in Sydney, and the Melbourne Rebels beat the Johannesburg-based Lions in Melbourne.

Since then, though, and with the welcome return of the Western Force, Australian sides have only faced each other over two seasons of Super Rugby AU — the second of which wrapped up last weekend with Queensland’s thrilling final play 19-16 win over the Brumbies in Brisbane.

That’s all about to change from this weekend, and it’s probably worth getting our heads around the form lines of the NZ sides, as we find out definitively just how big — or small — the gap is between the two competitions.

The Crusaders claimed successive Aotearoa titles on the weekend, with a well-managed if not completely dominant 24-13 win over the Chiefs in Christchurch.

It marks their 12th overall Super Rugby title in 26 seasons, while their unbeaten run in finals matches played in Christchurch now extends to 25 games. It’s little wonder they will start the trans-Tasman series overwhelming favourites.

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They jumped out to an early lead during Super Rugby Aotearoa with four straight wins, though had a bit of a hiccup over the back end of the competition, losing by a record margin to the Highlanders in Christchurch in the second South Island derby, scraping home in golden point over the Hurricanes in Wellington, and then getting pipped by late Damien McKenzie penalty goal to lose to the Chiefs in Hamilton.

They regrouped by spanking the Blues ahead of a final-round bye, and did enough to keep their nose in front of the Chiefs to take out the Final.

They’ll tip some beating, for sure, but do have to play three of their five games in Australia. The round two clash with the Super Rugby AU champion Reds in Brisbane already looms as a blockbuster contest.

The team they beat in the final, the Chiefs, went on a five-game winning streak to storm into the Super Rugby Aotearoa Final, which in itself represented a massive turnaround in fortunes.

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After going winless in Super Rugby Aotearoa last season, they also lost their first two games in 2021, causing plenty of commentators to ponder what on Earth was going wrong after 10 straight losses.

But then the streak started, beating all four New Zealand teams, including the Hurricanes twice, to surge past more fancied sides.

The Chiefs will also play three trans-Tasman games in Australia, starting with this weekend in Perth against the Western Force, and certainly have to be considered the next best of the New Zealand sides, even currently battling with a bit of an injury crisis.

The Blues finished equal with the Chiefs on points but with one fewer win, and it probably has to be conceded that they fell well short of expectations in 2021.

A group of people sit holding blue flags with 'Blues' written on them
The Blues always carry plenty of expectation, but they have fallen short in recent seasons.(

AAP: Darren Pateman

)

After starting the season widely tipped to be the team to push the Crusaders, the Auckland-based side lost three of their last five games with some performances that left fans and pundits alike frustrated.

The Blues have been guilty of falling out of seasons in recent years, and how they go in this trans-Tasman series almost certainly depends on how well they start.

They’ll play three games at home, but start with the Rebels in Melbourne this weekend, before hosting the Waratahs and Brumbies in successive weeks.

On paper, they could win all three, but experience over the last few years means they could easily lose a couple.

The Highlanders have the triple-whammy of hosting the Reds first up in Dunedin, having a shocking injury toll that has seen them bring a number of replacement players in this week, all while being without their coach Tony Brown, who just last week made the decision to head to Japan early to continue his assistant coaching role with the Brave Blossoms as they gear up to face the British & Irish Lions in Edinburgh ahead of the Lions’ tour of South Africa.

Taniela Tupou hurdles a player while carrying a rugby ball under his hand.
Taniela Tupou and the Reds take on the Highlanders first up in Dunedin. (

AAP: Dan Peled

)

The men from the south had an up-and-down Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign, with some genuinely excellent performances evened out by some properly ordinary showings.

They lost three of the first four games this season, and then went loss-win-loss-win-loss to finish well short of the top two.

They’ll beat some Australian sides, but struggle with others, and this will be completely in line with how they’ve played for the last few seasons.

And to finish, I had the Hurricanes ready to battle it out with the Blues at the start of the Super Rugby Aotearoa season, as the team most likely to then go on and challenge the Crusaders, but the point remains that they are still battling to overcome the loss of All Blacks flyhalf Beauden Barrett at the end of the 2019 season.

Beauden Barrett makes a break for the Hurricanes against Brumbies
The Hurricanes are yet to truly fill the boots of departed All Black fly half Beauden Barrett.(

AAP: Ross Setford

)

The Hurricanes showed some glimpses of improvement this season, but could only manage two wins against the Highlanders and none against the other three sides.

They remain an ‘on their day they can beat anyone’ prospect at the moment, but the biggest challenge has been how many of ‘their days’ they have.

They’ll enjoy three home games in Super Rugby trans-Tasman, but their last five games comprise the top three Australia sides.

In all, it’s going to be a fascinating series that will play out over the next six weeks, and may well go a long way to determining what format professional rugby takes in this part of the world in future years.

All in front of a COVID backdrop that could still come crashing down at any point.

Super Rugby trans-Tasman – Round 1

Friday
Highlanders v Reds, Dunedin 1705
Waratahs v Hurricanes, Sydney 1945

Saturday
Crusaders v Brumbies, Christchurch 1705
Rebels v Blues, Melbourne 1945
Force v Chiefs, Perth 2155

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Owen Franks set to make Super Rugby return – report

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Former Crusaders prop Owen Franks is reportedly set to make a surprise return to New Zealand rugby – but not for his old side.

Newshub is reporting that Franks has signed with the Hurricanes on a one-year deal for the 2022 season.

Franks, 33, has been playing in England for Northampton after his 108-test All Blacks career ended when he wasn’t wanted for the 2019 All Blacks World Cup squad.

It would be a surprising chance of scenery for Franks, who played all of his 150 Super Rugby games for the Crusaders, winning three titles, and had seemingly played his final games in New Zealand when running out for Canterbury in the NPC in 2019.

Franks’ signing would continue a busy period for the Hurricanes, who on Monday saw inspirational halfback TJ Perenara re-sign with the franchise and New Zealand Rugby until 2023, before shortly after they lost All Blacks midfielder Ngani Laumape, who agreed to a lucrative offer to join French club Stade Francais from July 1.

Laumape was not named in the Hurricanes’ team to play the Waratahs on Friday in their opening game of Super Rugby Transtasman, but coach Jason Holland insisted it was a coincidence.

“That’s been part of our plan since the back end of the earlier comp, we were looking forward to the Transtasman thinking if we’re going to win it, we’re not going to be able to go through that with the same 23 every week,” he said of Laumape’s exclusion.

“The mindset to make sure everyone is fresh and ready to go at the end of the season, we’re not going to have the same 23 from week to week. There’s going to be three or four guys who will be in and out of the side for the first three or four weeks.”

Holland confirmed Laumape would be playing a part in the campaign and his role wouldn’t reduce.

“We’ve always had a plan in place to make sure we get some new guys some game time.”

The Hurricanes are set to have more contract talks with All Blacks before the season is over, with Jordie Barrett and Ardie Savea off contract at the end of the campaign.

Savea’s contract negotiations are unlikely to be straightforward. Last year he expressed a desire to play rugby league, saying he wanted to test himself with a new challenge and that a change of codes would open the door for him to represent Samoa.

Given that desire to connect with his family heritage, Moana Pasifika’s introduction from next season may also appeal, and there will be no shortage of offshore suitors for the world-class loose forward.

The same goes for Barrett.

“Jordie has been a star for us the last few years,” Hurricanes chief executive Avan Lee told the Herald last month. “We’re talking to him and his manager and that will carry on. We’re aware these guys are in demand.

“We’re really confident they are happy at the Hurricanes, they love the team, but we fully appreciate they have choices so we don’t take them for granted.

“We just need to do our best and keep in regular dialogue with them but be respectful most of those guys have full time commitments now with matches so you have to pick your moments.”

The Blues flew Barrett to Auckland last year in an ultimately unsuccessful bid to lure him to play alongside his older brother, but having only signed a one-year deal with the Hurricanes, Lee is preparing for another attempted raid.

“I would assume so. The Blues have shown their interest before and I don’t see why that would’ve changed. They’ve got Stephen Perofeta and others who have played fullback. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is coming in, you just don’t know what’s on their agenda, but I’d be surprised if they didn’t.”

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The history the Australian teams are up against in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman

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ANALYSIS: When the Brumbies take the field at Orangetheory Stadium in Christchurch this weekend, they will be trying to do something they haven’t done since May 2000.

Beat the Crusaders on their own patch.

The night before, when the Reds play at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, they will be looking for their first away win over the Highlanders since March 2013.

The Brumbies haven’t won in Christchurch since May 2000 – and there’s plenty more where that came from.

Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

The Brumbies haven’t won in Christchurch since May 2000 – and there’s plenty more where that came from.

Later that night, the Waratahs will be looking for their first home win over the Hurricanes since March 2014, while on Saturday, the Rebels will be looking for their first home win over the Blues since May 2015, and the Force will be looking for their first home win over the Chiefs since 2014 (though it must be noted they haven’t played New Zealand teams since 2017).

READ MORE:
* Super Rugby: Bookies snub of Australian teams ‘white noise’, claims Reds star
* Super Rugby Trans-Tasman: Waratahs to bench two brightest stars for clash with Hurricanes
* Super Rugby: ‘Hungry’ Crusaders flush latest triumph in pursuit of another trophy
* ‘Win some, lose some’: Hurricanes to farewell Ngani Laumape as mega French offer wins out

Even if you put home advantage to one side, the records of the Australian teams in this weekend’s matchups makes for some pretty bleak reading.

The Brumbies’ last win over the Crusaders, home or away, was in February 2009. The Reds’ last win over the Highlanders was in April 2016. The Waratahs’ last win over the Hurricanes was in April 2015.

You could go on and on, but the best summary is this.

When venues are taken into account, the 25 Super Rugby Trans-Tasman fixtures in store over the next five weekends include four the Australian teams have never won, five they haven’t won for at least 10 years, and 10 they haven’t won for at least five years.

SKY SPORT

How will the winless Waratahs fare against the Hurricanes in their Super Rugby Trans-Tasman competition opener?

That leaves just six where they have tasted success since the start of 2016 – Brumbies v Hurricanes and at Chiefs, Waratahs v Chiefs and Crusaders, Reds v Blues, and Rebels at Highlanders.

Now, there is a good chance some of these losing runs might end in the near future.

The Reds are fresh from winning Super Rugby AU, and are understood to have been regarded by at least one New Zealand franchise as the form team on either side of the Tasman heading into last weekend’s finals.

So they might never have a better chance than they will on June 11 to get a win away against the Hurricanes – something they haven’t managed since 1998 – or on May 22 to beat the Crusaders at home – something they haven’t managed since the 2011 final.

After having the chance to notch their first win away against the Hurricanes – the wooden-spooners in Super Rugby Aotearoa – on May 22, the Rebels will also have the chance to break their duck away against the Chiefs, on June 5.

The Force’s first chance to make history will come when they visit the Hurricanes on May 28, and they will get another when they visit the champion Crusaders on June 4, but the other two contests where they’ve never managed a win – at home against the Blues and away against the Chiefs – aren’t on the schedule this season.

SKY SPORT

The Brumbies will take on Super Rugby Aotearoa champions the Crusaders in Christchurch.

These bits of trivia are a reminder of just how badly the Australian teams have fared in Super Rugby in recent years.

They won just 31 per cent of the trans-Tasman matches in 2019, the last full season, 24 per cent in 2018, none in 2017, 12 per cent in 2016, and 32 per cent in 2015.

Before that they did win 50 per cent in 2014 and 55 per cent in 2013, but that’s going back to a time before the Jaguares and Sunwolves were on the scene, which is basically ancient history.

If they were to win nine of the 25 matches thatlie ahead, that would be their best return in seven years as far as the trans-Tasman rivalry is concerned.

But even then, the Brumbies or the Reds would likely have to go on a tear and win four of their five matches to avoid the most likely outcome of an all-New Zealand final on June 19, the makeup of which could be determined by points difference.

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