The expanded 18-team competition kicked off on Friday night in Auckland with the Blues and Highlanders playing a pulsating brand of end-to-end rugby that culminated in a win for the home side. The Brumbies then fired a warning shot of their own with a devastating 52-10 triumph over last year’s finalists, the Hurricanes in Canberra.
In Bloemfontein, the Jaguares asserted themselves as a “must-watch” side this season with a resurgent triumph over the Cheetahs. After going behind 24-3 early, the newcomers from Argentina played with the flair, passion and a never-say-die attitude that we have seen at an international level to pip the South African side 34-33.
“Super Saturday” contained six back-to-back matches starting in Tokyo as the Sunwolves made their Super Rugby debut in front of a sold-out crowd at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium. The Japanese-side kept it close all day in a brave and gallant effort before succumbing to the Lions 26-13.
A trio of derbies followed with the Chiefs once again getting the better of the Crusaders 27-12, the Waratahs were too good for the Reds, earning a 30-10 bonus point victory while the Rebels overcame injury and stifling West Australian heat to defeat the Force 25-19.
In Port Elizabeth, the Kings held their own for the opening 40, going to the sheds just seven points in arrears, but the Sharks’ experience came to the fore in the second period as they ran out 43-8 victors.
Finally, the Stormers showed they will again be a force to be reckoned with this year as a second-half blitz saw them account for the Bulls 33-9 in front of more than 40 000 passionate fans at Newlands.
SANZAAR chief executive, Andy Marinos, said: “Super Rugby has only been back for one week and it’s already showing why it’s one of the most exciting and competitive competitions in the world. With the up-tempo, free-flowing and high-octane style of play that has become a hallmark of this competition, you really can’t take your eyes off the action for a moment.
“We saw tremendous support for our new teams, highlighted by a sold-out Prince Chichibu Stadium, and we expect the Jaguares will receive a similar reception for their first home game in Round 4 against the Chiefs.
“What was also pleasing was the positive, and at times free-flowing, direction that we saw from our referees who further embraced the attributes of what this competition is about.
“Whilst I appreciate we are only one week old in this new competition structure, at the conclusion of the Stormers v Bulls game, I am encouraged with our start and thank the fans for their support and the teams and match officials for their positive approach to the start of the competition.
“I look forward to next week as I am sure we will receive yet another dose of pulsating, all-action encounters as the teams start to get into stride,” Marinos concluded.
Round 1, results:
Fri 26 Feb: Blues 33 Highlanders 31
Fri 26 Feb: Brumbies 52 Highlanders 10
Fri 26 Feb: Cheetahs 33 by Jaguares 34
Sat 27 Feb: Sunwolves 13 by Lions 26
Sat 27 Feb: Crusaders 21 by 27 Chiefs
Sat 27 Feb: Waratahs 30 Reds 10
Sat 27 Feb: Force 19 by Rebels 25
Sat 27 Feb: Kings 8 by Sharks 43
Sat 27 Feb: Stormers 33 Bulls 9
Original source: Super Rugby off to flying start