The Blues face a demanding start to their 2020 Investec Super Rugby Championship, with the official schedule released today.
They face neighbours the Chiefs in the opener at Eden Park on Friday 31 January before they take up the challenge of four away games in five weeks including a two-game venture to South Africa.
The Blues will celebrate the 25thanniversary of Super Rugby with a number of new initiatives, including hosting a competition game to Northland. They will play 2019 finalists the Jaguares at Toll Stadium in Whangarei in their round 11 clash on 18 April.
Another major initiative for families is that Super Rugby games in New Zealand will move forward by 30 minutes with kick-off times of 7:05pm and 4.45pm for early games. The Blues are excited to host two 4:45pm kick-off games against the Hurricanes at Eden Park on Easter, and the match in Whangarei.
There are the usual home and away derby games against the New Zealand clubs – the Chiefs, Crusaders, Highlanders and Hurricanes – while the Blues meet three of the four South African sides and all four Australian clubs along with the Jaguares.
“The first six weeks of the championship will be a challenge for the club with two games in South Africa, one in Australia and the Hurricanes away,” said coach Leon MacDonald. “That is an exciting prospect for us and one that we eagerly look forward to.”
Blues Chief Executive Michael Redman said the club is pleased to at last take a competition game to Northland.
“The club is enthusiastic about working with Northland Rugby Union, NECT and Whangarei District Council to host a Super Rugby game in Whangarei. We have greatly enjoyed venturing north for camps and pre-season games, this will be a wonderful occasion and a very proud one for the Northland players in our team.
“We know how much Northlanders love their rugby and how supportive they have been. The Jaguares were the most improved side in Super Rugby last year and play an exciting brand of rugby, so this will be a fantastic fixture to play in front of what we hope will be a full-house.”
Northland Rugby Union CEO Alistair McGinn said his union and the rugby fans of Northland will be enthusiastically looking forward to hosting a Super Rugby game in Whangarei.
“We have some ardent rugby fans here in Northland who will be thrilled to host a Super Rugby game. It was back in 2011 when we last hosted the Blues in a Super game here. We have an outstanding stadium and a history of staging top-level games here, so I am confident we will do a great job.
“Northlanders are passionate about sport and about rugby in particular. I am sure they will come out in force to support this game, and it gives a chance for the Northland players in the team to play in front of their family and friends.”
The Blues remaining seven home games will be at the spiritual home of rugby in New Zealand at Eden Park.
To celebrate 25 years of Super Rugby, the Blues are offering one free Blues Crew junior membership with every Blues Club adult membership. Added to that all children four years and under are free, while a children’s ticket eligibility has been increased to 16 years and under.
There is a significant lure for members, with all Blues Club members gaining free entry to any Blues home games should they qualify for the finals series. The process for current members to renew is available from early October.
The season-proper begins on Friday 31 January and is completed on 30 May before three weeks of playoffs with the final on 20 June.
The Blues fixtures for 2020 are:
31 January: Chiefs (Eden Park)
8 February: Waratahs (away)
14 February Crusaders (Eden Park)
22 February Bulls (away)
29 February Stormers (away)
7 March Hurricanes (away)
14 March Lions (Eden Park)
21 March Brumbies (Eden Park)
3 April Crusaders (away)
11 April Hurricanes (Eden Park)
18 April Jaguares (Toll Stadium)
24 April Rebels (away)
2 May Highlanders (away)
9 May Reds (Eden Park)
15 May Chiefs (away)
29 May Highlanders (Eden Park)