Now that provincial rugby competitions have been up and running in NZ and South Africa, it’s the time when women’s rugby are set to ‘hold the ball’ during Super Saturday.
The women selected to play in the 2018 Farah Palmer Cup, have been readying themselves. Training (see main picture) and building the important team culture, each of the 12 women’s teams will feature in the opening week of the Premiership and Championship divisions.
Round 1⃣ of the #FarahPalmerCup kicks off on Saturday! @BOPRugby will play in the first double header of 2018 as they host @crfu in Tauranga which will be live 📺 on @skysportnz. What are your predictions for round 1⃣❓😎🏉#Ours pic.twitter.com/f9e53rxIAJ
— Black Ferns (@BlackFerns) August 29, 2018
This first round of six matches will kick-off another Super Saturday, with women’s rugby having the light shined on it [figuratively and literally in our main picture] ahead of the Currie Cup (South Africa), Heartland Championship and Mitre 10 Cup in New Zealand.
Women’s rugby set to hold the ball during Super Saturday
Having players from the World Champion Black Ferns scattered throughout the competition, is a benefit to the standards and interest in women’s rugby. Both from the fans viewpoint, as much as from the stakeholders.
As noted in the above graphic, one match of every weekend will be broadcast on SkySports in New Zealand. A commitment from New Zealand Rugby and the pay TV broadcaster, to establish the competition.
Head along to the games and show some support! 😎 🏉
— Black Ferns (@BlackFerns) August 30, 2018
So Bay of Plenty v Canterbury will be able to be viewed by thousands of women’s rugby followers, as well as the other five matches; where fans can travel to watch, and to support their province.
Once the early matches of the Farah Palmer Cup begin Saturday, then a whole selection of matches begin for rugby fans in the Southern Hemisphere.
Mitre 10 Cup – Week Three
After the opening match of the double-header in Tauranga, the men compete in the Mitre 10 Cup. A cross-conference game of Championship v Premiership, the hosts will be determined to carry on a winning start. But in Canterbury, they face the most dominant, rugby production-line in all of domestic rugby.
Bay of Plenty v Canterbury – 2:35pm, Tauranga Domain
Manawatu v Otago – 5.05pm, Palmerston North
North Harbour v Tasman – 7:35pm, Albany
This reporter will be present at the latter game, and will be among others across the country, to visit a rugby match. It is part of the Kiwi rugby fans DNA …even if it is raining, windy or the sun is shining.
Heartland Championship – Week Two
In the rural Heartland, fans will also plan their day. Some may visit Farah Palmer Cup matches at fixtures in Taupiri, Whakatane and Napier. Others may choose the Heartland Championship, where six games will be scheduled across smaller venues, like Whakarua Park in Ruatoria.
The sidelines will be packed for the East Coast v Horowhenua-Kapiti game. Locals will either park their utility SUV on the sidelines, take the family along and enjoy the afternoon. Communities embrace the game here; as they do in South Africa and in England or France. The Heartland rugby competition – like the French Rugby D2 or Premiership Rugby Shield – celebrate the game, as much as the community bond with the sport.
PREVIEW | After a tight opening round of the #HeartlandChampionship, who will put their hand up as a title contender in round two?
— Mitre 10 Cup (@Mitre10Cup) August 31, 2018
Then to help round out the competitions in the Southern Hemisphere, the Currie Cup and NRC Championship follow.
Currie Cup Premiership and First Division
In South Africa, both the Premiership and First Division continue. Matches on Saturday cover many of the most well known teams in the popular Currie Cup competitions.
The heat is on in the Currie Cup as three teams reach the halfway mark in the pool stages, which will spice up the competition. Fixtures – Friday: 18h30- Pumas v WP. Saturday: 14h10- Cheetahs v Cell C Sharks, 16h05 – Blue Bulls v Lions @DirectAxis @NashuaLTD @Springboks pic.twitter.com/hRJ4DDximl
— The Currie Cup (@TheCurrieCup) August 30, 2018
With teams having input from Super Rugby coaches, like Robert du Preez, the level in the Premiership is as strong as the Mitre 10 Cup, or any other national domestic competition. And that is what draws fans and viewers to plan their Super Saturday’s.
Saturday’s clash against the Free State Cheetahs will be crucial for both sides – as the Sharks hope to build on recent successes -as much as for the ability of the Cheetahs organization to justify having both an Guinness PRO14 side, as well as a Currie Cup team. (It may yet only be an example that the Free State side suffers, by the best players traveling up to the Celtic League competition).
So the interest for fans in the republic, as well around the globe, will see interest in several Southern hemisphere rugby competitions this weekend.
Australian National Rugby Championship (NRC)
For Australian rugby fans, they will feel that their NRC competition is the one competition, where a ‘local team’ has the opportunity to claim victory. After a semi-successful Super Rugby season, two losses to New Zealand have deflated the national sports appetite. Organizers will be hoping that Super Saturday fixtures for the NRC, can awaken fans thirst for men’s and women’s rugby.
— NRC (@NRC_Live) August 31, 2018
One aspect of the NRC that can be endorsed by Last Word on Rugby, is the inclusion of Fijian team Dura. It is not only a boost for players from the South Seas Island, but also for players living in Australia. They can still represent, but fly the flag for their proud rugby nation.
Northern Hemisphere schedule just as full as ‘down under’
Continuing the wealth of rugby fixtures, up in the Northern Hemisphere the Gallagher Premiership and Guinness PRO14 start. The two competitions will follow on from the French Top14, which started last week.
Those competitions will attract thousands of fans to the wide selection of games, and millions of viewers to the range of broadcasters. In the biggest rugby market, each championship has their own niche group of fans. From the traditional UK rugby fan, to the continental sports fan, and the Celtic viewer who wishes to challenge teams from across the globe. The fascination is wide-spread, rather than as domestic – as the Heartland Championship and Currie Cup is.
What is growing though, is the attraction to women’s rugby. So in the Northern hemisphere, women’s teams will also play in a number of competitions. All hoping to grow the game and to lift the standards.
Later in 2018, the Rugby World Cup champion Black Ferns will play in the United States and then two Tests in France. It all goes towards making up the global calendar, and a global rugby market.
Super Saturday another example of the Global Reach of Rugby.
Super Saturday’s will be planned for by fans in both hemispheres. And that is what makes them return week-after-week, and year-after-year. It is in the blood, and in the smiles of the fans who are entertained this weekend – and throughout the rugby seasons of every one of the competitions mentioned above.
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images