Last Updated: 10/09/19 7:07am
Samuel Whitelock (L) and head coach Scott Robertson celebrate after Crusaders won their third consecutive Super Rugby title
Super Rugby will make its earliest start to a season in the competition’s history next year, with the first match to be held in January.
Auckland Blues will host the Waikato Chiefs on January 31 in the season opener and the 21-week tournament will now run uninterrupted until July, when the new international Test window begins.
In previous non-World Cup years, the mainly southern hemisphere competition took a three-week break to accommodate an international window in June before resuming in early July.
“An earlier than usual start has been required to get through the 21-week tournament and provide the national teams with a clear week leading into the July test series,” said Andy Marinos, the chief executive of governing body SANZAAR.
Crusaders defeated Jaguares in the final in July
The 2020 Super Rugby season will also be the final season for Japan’s Sunwolves after SANZAAR cut them following the Japan Rugby Union’s decision to withdraw their financial support of the team.
It will also be the final year of the conference system, with a straight round-robin format to return in 2021.
Reigning champions Crusaders will begin their bid for a fourth straight title on February 1, when they face Waratahs.