Long winter wait for Super fans ends this weekend


The long winter wait for fans of free-flowing Southern Hemisphere rugby comes to an end a little earlier than usual this weekend when what looks like being a wide open battle for the 2013 Super Rugby title gets underway.

Over six gruelling months, hundreds of players will squeeze their hulking frames into aircraft and rack up thousands of air miles to take part in 130 matches which will determine the pre-eminent provincial side south of the equator.

Australia alone gets the season underway this weekend but the smart money will again be on the champions emerging from either the New Zealand or South Africa conferences – as they have in all but three of the 17 years of the competition.

The Waikato Chiefs may have lost a little stardust with the return of Sonny Bill Williams to rugby league but their stunning title triumph last year was also built on grunt up front and there will be plenty of that still in 2013. The bookmakers make the seven-times champion Canterbury Crusaders favourites, but the upstart Otago Highlanders will provide another South Island challenge if they can sustain their challenge over a whole season.

The South Africa conference will boast a new team in the Southern Kings but their title challenge is again likely to come from the Sharks, runners up for the fourth time last year, as well as the Stormers, while no one will ever write off the Bulls.

Sorely tested

The British and Irish Lions tour looms large over the competition in Australia, where the depth of the five teams will be sorely tested. Warren Gatland’s team arrive in early June for a five-week tour that includes matches against all five Super Rugby sides and three Tests against the Wallabies.

The timing of the tour has necessitated a rejigging of the fixtures list with Australian sides beginning this weekend, while teams in New Zealand and South Africa will get underway next week. There will also be further split rounds around the June international window and any injuries sustained in that period could prove crucial when the competition resumes.

Critics of the expansion of the competition from 12 to 14, then 15 teams in 2011, have pointed to the lack of resources in Australia, where the sport competes with three other football codes. Results on the field supported those arguments last year when just one team, the 2011 champion Queensland Reds, made the play-offs.

The Reds finished third courtesy of winning the Australian conference, but their final points tally of 58 was only the fifth-best in the competition.

Super Rugby Previous winners

2012 Waikato Chiefs

2011 Queensland Reds

2010 Bulls

2009 Bulls

2008 Crusaders

2007 Bulls

2006 Crusaders

2005 Crusaders

2004 ACT Brumbies

2003 Auckland Blues

2002 Crusaders

2001 ACT Brumbies

2000 Crusaders

1999 Crusaders

1998 Crusaders

1997 Auckland Blues

1996 Auckland Blues

Sign In

Forgot Password?

Sign Up

The name that will appear beside your comments.

Have an account? Sign In

Forgot Password?

Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In or Sign Up

Thank you

You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.

Hello, .

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

Thank you for registering. Please check your email to verify your account.

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.