2019 Super Rugby match schedule announced with Waratahs to host Hurricanes on opening weekend

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Beauden Barrett and the Hurricanes travel to Sydney in week one 2019.

SANZAAR has announced the tournament dates for the 2019 Super Rugby competition that will kick-off on Friday February 15 when the Chiefs host the Highlanders in New Zealand. The Final will take place on Saturday July 6.

As there will be no June inbound international matches in 2019 – due to Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan later in the year – Super Rugby will run uninterrupted for 21 weeks.

Plus, there will be a uniform start to the tournament in Round 1 with a full round of seven matches to kick-off Super Rugby.

Apart from the Chiefs and Highlanders clash other week 1 highlights include the NSW Waratahs hosting the star-studded Hurricanes in Sydney on Saturday February 16, a big South African derby with the Stormers taking on the Bulls in Cape Town and the Jaguares welcoming the Lions to Argentina.

Click HERE for the full 2019 Super Rugby match schedule.

The tournament’s 15-team, three-Conference format remains the same.

Each team plays 16 regular season conference matches that include eight matches within their own Conference (home and away) and four matches against teams from each of the other Conferences (home or away). Each team also has two byes.

This is a total of 120 matches in the regular season that will be followed by a seven-match, eight-team finals series. The conferences remain:

Australia Conference: Brumbies, Rebels, Reds, Waratahs, Sunwolves

New Zealand Conference: Blues, Chiefs, Crusaders, Highlanders, Hurricanes

South African Conference: Bulls, Lions, Sharks, Stormers, Jaguares

The Finals series will also remain unchanged with each of the three Conference winners qualifying for and hosting a quarter-final.

The team with the most tournament points that is not a Conference winner, regardless of Conference, will host the fourth quarter-final.

This Wildcard team will be joined in the quarter-finals by the next best four Wildcard teams based on tournament points and regardless of Conference.

The released schedule confirms all tournament match dates and kick-off times. However, the match venues will be announced later in the year once teams have determined where their home matches will be allocated.

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Super Rugby: Highlanders turn it on in second half to blow away the Hurricanes

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Waisake Naholo cruises over to seal it for the Highlanders

The Highlanders finished strongly to upset the Hurricanes 30-14 in Dunedin Friday and boost their chances of a play-off berth.

The hosts scored four tries to two in a fixture that saw both teams evenly matched until mid-way through the second half.

The result consolidates the Highlanders’ spot in the top eight, lifting them above the Chiefs, who face a tough assignment against defending champions the Crusaders on Saturday.

It also extends their home winning streak to 12 and is the second straight loss for the Hurricanes, who until last week were challenging the Crusaders at the top of the table.

Captain Brad Shields blamed a misfiring lineout and handling errors for the loss, saying his side needed to improve if they were to claim the title for the first time since 2016.

“It’s frustrating because it’s been the same thing for the last couple of weeks. We’ve been our own worst enemy,” he said.

“When you can’t string phases together or hold onto the ball it’s pretty hard to score points.”

The match began at a frantic pace under the Forsyth Barr Stadium roof, with the Highlanders looking to get the ball wide but only a Lima Sopoaga penalty dividing the teams mid-way through the first half.

Jordie Barrett put the Hurricanes ahead with the first try of the match in the 23rd minute after latching on to a pass from brother Beauden off the back of a strong scrum.

The hosts were reduced to 14 men two minutes before half-time when Liam Squire received a yellow card for a dangerous tackle, but the setback only spurred the Highlanders on.

They kept the ball alive through some desperate offloading for four minutes after the half-time siren, with half-back Aaron Smith in the thick of a spectacular passage of play before Tevita Li scored to make it 8-7.

Smith crossed his own try to extend the Highlanders’ lead three minutes after the restart when fullback Ben Smith weaved through three defenders to set him up.

The Hurricanes hit back when a quick throw-in from Nehe Milner-Skudder caught the Highlanders napping, allowing prop Jeff Toomaga-Allen to barge his way over for a converted try.

Tyrel Lomax scored for the Highlanders as the home side dominated the final quarter, with Waisake Naholo also crossing the line and Sopoaga contributing another penalty, making it 30-14.

Highlanders 30 (T Li, A Smith, T Lomax, W Naholo tries, L Sopoaga 2 cons, 2 pens) defeated Hurricanes 14  (J Barrett, J Toomaga-Allen tries; B Barrett 2 cons) in Dunedin. (HT: Highlanders 8-7) (Yellow card: L Squire)

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Super Rugby talking points Week 16: Do you speak Super Rugby? 'Pee-ree' Weepu is here to help

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Piri Weepu helping with pronounciations

Five talking points ahead of week 16 of Super Rugby:

Do you speak Super Rugby?

New Zealand rugby has released a video detailing how to correctly pronounce the names of some Super Rugby players.

The clip is hosted by former All Black Piri (Pee-ree, not Perry) Weepu, who says pronouncing names properly is a way of being respectful to different cultures.

Among those featured are Crusaders prop Michael Alaalatoa (Alla-alla-taw-ah), Blues flanker Dalton Papali’i (Pa-pa-lee-ee) and Chiefs flanker Pita Gus Sowakula (So-a-cool-a).

There are some names certain to trip up unsuspecting television commentators, such as Hurricanes back Wes Goosen, whose surname is prounced Hoi-sin like the Chinese sauce, and Chiefs assistant coach Tabai Matson, whose first name is pronounced Tum-bye, with a silent M.

Chiefs halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, recently referred to as “Triple-T” by All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, was given a separate video to spell out his tongue twister Teh Toy-roar Tah-hoo-ree-or rung-ee.

Highlanders prime big guns

The Highlanders have recalled their big names as they started a late-season push for the play-offs with an impressive 30-14 win over the Hurricanes  in Dunedin on Friday. They did so without flanker Liam Squire for ten-minutes as he was binned for a questionable dangerous tackle.

The Highlanders named 10 current or past All Blacks in their line-up including Ben Smith, Aaron Smith and Luke Whitelock, who were all rested for last week’s patchy win over Queensland Reds. Flanker Liam Squire also returned from a broken thumb.

Assistant coach Mark Hammett said that after five weeks on the road the side were excited to be back home, where they have won 11 games in succession. “We want to give a huge push towards making the play-offs this week before we hit the June break,” he said. “The players are really looking forward to being back under the roof in front of a vocal home crowd.”

Chiefs fortress faces Crusaders test

The Chiefs also take an 11-match home winning streak into their clash with Crusaders on Saturday, although their recent form against the reigning champions has not been convincing.

The Chiefs have lost their past three meetings with the Crusaders, including 45-23 toweling in February. The visitors are also on a high after overcoming numerous injuries to beat the Hurricanes last week and give themselves a five-point lead at the top of the table.

Crusaders coach Scott Robertson said there was no room for complacency as he looks to take his team into the Test break in a commanding position. “The Chiefs have an extremely good scrum,” Robertson said. “Given their injuries they have done a great job with the players that have come in for them – as have we, so it will be a great battle.”

Tahs on notice over ‘body language’

Waratahs forward Michael Wells says strong “body language” is a big priority for the NSW Waratahs against fierce rivals Queensland in Brisbane on Saturday.

Wells says Waratahs skipper Michael Hooper and forwards coach Simon Cron called out players in the post-match review for showing signs of weariness in last week’s fading loss to the Chiefs.

“In reviews it is a pretty sobering moment when blokes see Cronny (Cron) pull up clips and they’re on the haunches and sucking in the deep ones. It is something we are going to work on, the body language,” Wells said. “If your life is on the line, which is how we should be playing, we have to make the effort. We have rectified that. A few blokes have been put on notice and we will be better this week.”

Brumbies stand-off with Wallabies coach

The Brumbies are in a stand-off with the Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika over his demand to withdraw Test stars David Pocock, Allan Alaalatoa and Scott Sio from Sunday’s clash against the Japan Sunwolves in Canberra.

Cheika made the request amid concerns over the tight six-day turnaround between the Super rugby game and next week’s opening Test with Ireland in Brisbane.

But the Brumbies are determined to have their best players available to boost their hopes of attracting 15,000 fans for the Sunwolves game amid worries over declining crowds.

The Brumbies have pledged to donate AUD$15,000 ($11,350) to charity if they reach their 15,000 Sunwolves crowd target, with average crowd numbers in the national capital dipping below 8,500 per game this year – putting them in danger of recording their worst average crowd figures in Super Rugby history.

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