Rugby: Highlanders happy with Super draw

Roger Clark
Roger Clark
The Highlanders have avoided the Stormers and the Waratahs in the Super 15 next year and believe they have received a better draw than this past season.

The Super 15 draw was released yesterday by Sanzar and although the venues have yet to be confirmed, Highlanders general manager Roger Clark said seven of the eight home games would be played at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

The other home game is against the Cheetahs at Invercargill on March 9.

The byes appeared to be in a better place in the calendar than those this year when one was in the final round of the competition. That did not do the Highlanders any favours, Clark said.

Their first bye next year is in the second round.

The trip to Invercargill is well-timed, with Dunedin playing host to a cricket test between New Zealand and England.

The Highlanders will play their first three games at home and will not journey to South Africa until May.

They will take on new boys the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth before heading on to the high veldt to face the Bulls in Pretoria.

The overseas trip will finish with a game against the Force in Perth.

Under the competition rules, teams from one country play only four of the five sides from the other countries.

Last season, the Highlanders did not play the Lions and Force although they had lost to them in 2011. Next year the side will not face the Stormers and the Waratahs.

"[In] this competition you never really know who is going to be a tough game. The way the standard is now every game is going to be hard," Clark said.

Six of the Highlanders' first seven games are on Friday nights, and Clark believed they have had a good mixture of games.

The team has three pre-season games lined up, playing the Blues in Queenstown, the Crusaders in Oamaru and the Chiefs in Taupo.

The competition starts a week early for the Australian teams as the British and Irish Lions are touring Australia next year, and the draw had to be slightly amended to accommodate that tour.

France will tour New Zealand during the June international window.

After that window, New Zealand and South African teams will play while the Australian teams will not, as the Wallabies will still be playing the Lions.

Meanwhile, the picture of where players are going to play next season will become clearer next week when the names of delisted players - those not wanted by their current franchises - are released.

Clark said he was happy with the way the Highlanders were assembling a squad and it was still evolving.

He would not be drawn on any new signings but said it was something of a strategic battle to get players.

Super 15
Highlanders draw

February 22: v Chiefs, Dunedin
March 1: bye
March 9: Cheetahs, Invercargill
March 15: Hurricanes, Dunedin
March 22: Chiefs, Hamilton
March 29: Reds, Dunedin
April 5: Blues, Auckland
April 12: Brumbies, Dunedin
April 20: Crusaders, Christchurch
April 27: bye
May 4: Sharks, Dunedin
May 11: Kings, Port Elizabeth
May 18: Bulls, Pretoria
May 25: Force, Perth
June 1: Blues, Dunedin
Three-week international break
June 29: Crusaders, Dunedin
July 6: Hurricanes, Wellington
July 12: Rebels, Melbourne


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