Following the official media launch of the 2017 Vodafone Super Rugby season, players, coaches and fans nationwide are eagerly anticipating kick off as the race for top spot in the Australian conference begins, which will guarantee an all-important home quarter-final.
Super Rugby stars including Michael Hooper (Waratahs), James Slipper (Reds), Sam Carter (Brumbies), Tatafu Polota-Nau (Force) and Nic Stirzaker (Rebels) were on hand for the Brisbane media launch, which was headlined by the announcement that Vodafone will be the Australian naming rights partners of Super Rugby for the next four seasons.
The partnership will see the iconic Vodafone logo proudly displayed on all Australian Super Rugby match shorts and jersey sleeves.
As part of their new deal, Vodafone will also become the first ever back-of-jersey sponsor for the Buildcorp Wallaroos, as they prepare for the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup in Ireland this August.
Speaking at the launch, ARU Chief Operating Officer, Rob Clarke said: “Vodafone were partners of Super Rugby from 2001-2003, and also have a long and proud history of supporting the Wallabies, so we are thrilled that they are returning to the Australian Rugby family.
“We all know that Super Rugby is without peer as an international provincial rugby competition. It pits the best of the best against each other on a weekly basis, from the best rugby nations in the world.
“I look forward to seeing which Aussie team will rise above the others, and I know that the competition for that top spot in the conference will be immense.
“On behalf of everyone at Australian Rugby Union, I wish all our Australian teams the very best for the coming season. I also want to thank Vodafone, our broadcast partners FOX SPORTS and Network Ten, and all our other valued partners who are crucial to the ongoing success of Super Rugby in this country.”
Vodafone Australia Customer Business Director, Ben McIntosh said: "Vodafone is thrilled to be returning to Rugby, where we had fantastic success building our brand in the early 2000s. It’s a sport we all love, and gives us a great opportunity to really connect with Australians right across the country.
"With teams based across the country, Super Rugby gives Vodafone a chance to show off the significant investment in the network we have made throughout Australia. Independent tests have shown that we have the best network in the cities where teams are based, giving us a great platform to show it off.
“We’re also equally excited to be a major supporter of the Wallaroos and women’s sport in Australia.”
FOX SPORTS will deliver live, ad break free and high definition coverage of every Super Rugby match in the 2017 Vodafone Super Rugby season and Network Ten will broadcast a full replay of one Australian Super Rugby match per round.
FOX SPORTS will complement its extensive on-field coverage with a brand new, dedicated rugby show, Rugby on FOX, premiering Tuesday 21 February. Host Nick McArdle will be joined by a panel of former Wallabies, including Phil Kearns, Tim Horan and Stephen Hoiles, plus regular guests George Gregan, Rod Kafer and Sean Maloney to analyse the week’s biggest stories, review and preview each Super Rugby round, and delve into the personalities of some of the biggest names in the game.
FOX SPORTS CEO, Patrick Delany said: “In 2017, we are going to shake up our Rugby coverage and give subscribers something fresh. A new entertainment show, more innovations plus an expanded commentary line-up. We will work with the clubs to open the doors into Rugby’s inner sanctum and give fans a different perspective, one they may never have seen before. We’re gearing up for a big season and we want fans along for the ride.”
The twenty-second season of Super Rugby will comprise 135 regular season matches played across 17 rounds, with each team given two byes during the regular season.
The Melbourne Rebels will kick off the 2017 Vodafone Super Rugby season, playing a Thursday night match at AAMI Park against the Blues at 7.45pm on Thursday 23 February (AEST). The Reds are the next Australian team to kick off, playing at 8.00pm, Friday 24 February (AEST) against the Sharks at Suncorp Stadium. The Brumbies will face off against the Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday 25 February at 5.35pm (AEST) and an all Australian derby will cap off Round 1, when the NSW Waratahs do battle against the Force at 7.45pm on Saturday 25 February (AEST) at Allianz Stadium.
For the full 2017 Super Rugby Draw, click here.
For the Network Ten broadcast schedule for rounds 1-8, click here.
(Editorial provided by rugby.com.au)