Super Saturday; Black Ferns, All Blacks and Mitre 10 Cup

Super Saturday; Black Ferns, All Blacks and much, much more
New Zealand's Renee Wickliffe makes a break during the women's rugby test match between the New Zealand Black Ferns and Australia at Eden Park on October 22, 2016. / AFP / MICHAEL BRADLEY (Photo credit should read MICHAEL BRADLEY/AFP/Getty Images)

If rugby is on your schedule today, then you might need to plan your time. It’s another Super Saturday, with a ‘full plate’ of rugby on offer across the globe. From the Black Ferns and All Blacks and Mitre 10 Cup.

The rugby calendar is beginning, for national provincial championships. That is in the Southern Hemisphere, where the Mitre 10 Cup involves the Premiership and Championship competitions. Across in South Africa, the Springboks play Los Pumas (Argentina) .

With matches beginning from 2:35pm and ending with the above Rugby Championship round one match, that is a HUGE 24 hours of rugby union…with over a half dozen matches to choose from, and that is not counting preseason games.

Anyway you look at it, it’s a Super Saturday!

Super Saturday; Black Ferns, All Blacks and much more

Looking at the day [and timezones] it all begins in New Zealand. A week before the Heartland Championship and two weeks before the Farah Palmer Cup open’s the women’s competition, so the Mitre 10 Cup holds fans attention.

Results have seen Harbour Rugby beat a fierce challenge from Northland, before the Tasman Mako upset 2017 champions, Canterbury. And today, three matches carry on the domestic match schedule;

  • Manawatu v Waikato – 2:35pm (NZT) kick-off from Palmerston North

  • Auckland v Counties-Manukau – 5.05pm kick-off from Eden Park

  • Bay of Plenty v Taranaki – 7:35pm kick-off from Rotorua

A slight conflict occurs, when the International Test matches begin. Across in Sydney, the Wallaroos v Black Ferns fixture is played at 7:15pm (NZT) but is not referred to as a curtain raiser (see main photo).

https://twitter.com/WallaroosRugby/status/1002378221063507968
A Rugby Australia graphic of the Wallaroos v Black Ferns fixture; courtesy of the @Wallaroos Twitter page.

In 2018, it is a stand alone test, with the current Women’s Rugby World Cup champions looking to hold off the developing Australian women.

Nine debutantes will play for the Wallaroos, as well as five women for the Black Ferns. It will be a real test, the bulk of the Wallaroos coming into this test with plenty of quality rugby behind them. New Zealand must be fully focused, if they wish to retain their unbeaten history over Australia, and secure the Laurie O’Reilly Trophy.

Wallaroos v Black Ferns – 5:15pm (AUS) ANZ Stadium, Sydney

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Once the women have entertained the crowd [possibly as many as 40,000] then the men will take to the same stage. The traditional opening match of The Rugby Championship 2018, before the later match over in South Africa.

This is the key fixture to secure, if the Wallabies have any chance of stealing away the Bledisloe Cup. It is also an important step for Rugby Australia, to regain credibility and to raise the flag for the sport in Australia. Victory; like they had in Brisbane in October 2017, will take them from page 47, to Page One News!

Many will say they are underdogs, as the All Blacks record is stronger. A loss in 2015, has been followed by two big wins in Sydney. The Wallabies must begin this match strongly, with Michael Hooper, Kurtley Beale and Will Genia (see above image) needing to be fully focused.

Jaco Peyper will control the match, one where Sam Whitelock (see below image) will celebrate his 100th test. The first player under 30 years of age, to achieve the feat – expect the All Blacks to honour him with a strong performance.

If the ball bounces their way, Waisake Naholo and Rieko Ioane will hope to cross the line. But a committed Wallabies defence, they must rush-up and stop the Beauden Barrett and second test starter, Jack Goodhue. He and his fellow Crusaders players, will have the form and confidence, that should carry them home.

Wallabies v All Blacks – 7:45pm (AUS) ANZ Stadium, Sydney

Note: the Australian National Rugby Championship (NRC) begins on September 1.

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While those matches are being played, over in South Africa the Currie Cup has carried on the long and successful tradition. Since the turn of the 19th century, provinces of the rugby-mad nation have challenged each other. Sides like Free State, Western Province, Golden Lions and Griquas are known worldwide.

Now divided into a Premiership and a First Division (similar to Mitre 10 Cup) the schedule began on Friday. Not wanting to clash with the International test on Saturday, two matches were played Friday night; with results going the iCollege Pumas and Vodacom Blue Bulls way.

The First Division and full currie cup season fixtures begin next weekend.

Holding the main attention of the nation Saturday night, will be The Rugby Championship. South Africa are aiming for a resurgence, after the change in head coach and management. Their success over England was pleasing, yet the unknown content of the 2018 side is one few can have certainty over.

The returning talents Eben Etzebeth and Warren Whiteley will bring experience into the group. Siya Kilosi and coach Rassie Erasmus must control their destiny, by opening the campaign with a win – although, the challenge from Argentina is going to be the strongest in years.

The culture of the Jaguares will be a huge boost to the Argentine sides chances. Mario Ledesma is a revolution, with his charisma and enthusiasm hopefully able to bring out the best of the Pumas. Expect the side to play faster, and to challenge all three SANZAAR partners.

The home crowd support could still be a factor. Durban will be a hot-bed of Springboks support, so overcoming that element could be the one thing that gives any advantage to South Africa. But many are backing the Pumas to increase their winning history over the Springboks.

Springboks v Los Pumas – 5.05pm (SA) Jonsson Kings Park, Durban

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Round One of The Rugby Championship will make it a Super Saturday alone. Add in several Mitre 10 Cup matches (and other domestic/pre-season games), it makes for a superb selection to entertain any rugby fan.

Next week, it grows even larger – add in the Currie Cup and Heartland Championship! That is Super, in any language.

“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images

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