A new tournament will make its debut in the southern hemisphere on Friday when Super Rugby Trans-Tasman kicks off in Dunedin.

But, what is it? Where will it be played? And what has changed since the end of Super Rugby Aotearoa and AU?

We answer all of those questions, and a few more, in our guide to rugby’s newest competition.

What is it?

Super Rugby Trans-Tasman is a new competition which pits the five Australian franchises against their rivals from New Zealand for the first time since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Each team will play five regular-season matches as they face every side from the opposing nation.

So, the Queensland Reds, for example, will play the Highlanders, Crusaders, Chiefs, Blues and Hurricanes. The Highlanders, meanwhile, will kick off their campaign against the Super Rugby AU champions before taking on the Western Force, Melbourne Rebels, NSW Waratahs and the Brumbies.

Following five weeks of action the top two teams in the standings will play a final to determine the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman 2021 winners.

When is it?

Super Rugby Trans-Tasman’s opening round of fixtures will get underway this Friday, 14 May, when the Highlanders host the Reds.

Two matches are scheduled to be played on Friday with the other three pencilled in for Saturday.

Each of the five rounds of regular-season fixtures will take place on consecutive weekends with the final scheduled to be played on Saturday, 19 June.

Where will it be played?

Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium will host the opening match of this year’s tournament before the Waratahs take on the Hurricanes at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Saturday’s matches will be played at Christchurch Stadium, AAMI Park and Perth Oval.

Each team will play at least two home matches, with Sky Stadium, Eden Park, FMG Stadium, Suncorp Stadium, GIO Stadium and Brookvale Oval gearing up to host games.

A proposed ‘Super Round’ which was due to be held at one venue has been shelved, meaning that round three will be played at regional centres in Hawke’s Bay, Townsville and Wollongong as well as Napier and Auckland. 

Queenstown’s Sir John Davies Oval will play host to the Highlanders for the first time since 2010 when the Kiwi side take on the Rebels on 30 May.

Will Super Rugby Trans-Tasman feature law variations?

On Monday it was confirmed that the tournament would retain two of the law variations that were recently trialled during Super Rugby Aotearoa and AU.

Goal-line drop-outs and red-card replacements are the two law innovations that will carry over into the new competition when it kicks off this weekend.

That means that when a defending team is required to, they will take a drop-out from their own goal-line rather than from the 22 in a bid to speed up play and encourage counter-attacking.

Players who are sent off, meanwhile, will be able to be replaced once 20 minutes has elapsed from the time they were shown the red card.

The captain’s referral will not be carried over into the new competition, while Golden Point extra-time will only be used in the final.

Has anything changed since Super Rugby Aotearoa and AU?

Despite the short turnaround between Super Rugby Aotearoa and AU, with both domestic finals being played last weekend, there have been some developments.

Confirmation that Japan will face the British and Irish Lions in Edinburgh on 26 June has hastened the temporary departure from the Highlanders of head coach Tony Brown.

Brave Blossoms assistant coach Brown left New Zealand at the end of last week in order to complete a period of self-isolation before he is able to link up with Jamie Joseph’s coaching team.

He will remain in contact with his Highlanders coaching team virtually and will return to New Zealand following Japan’s test commitments.

Melbourne Rebels will begin their Super Rugby Trans-Tasman campaign under the interim stewardship of Kevin Foote, after Dave Wessels stepped down as head coach.

South African Wessels made the decision to step down following four years in the job.

Meanwhile, All Black scrum-half TJ Perenara announced on Monday that he has re-signed with New Zealand Rugby and the Hurricanes following the conclusion of his spell in Japan with NTT DoCoMo Red Hurricanes.

Perenara has inked a deal until 2023, although it has not been confirmed when he will be available for selection for the Hurricanes.

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