New Zealand Rugby (NZR) has launched a new four-team women’s competition, Super Rugby Aupiki.
Three of the four teams will be aligned to the three North Island Super Rugby franchises – the Blues, Chiefs and Hurricanes – while the South Island team will be based in Christchurch.
They will play across four weekends in March in a landmark competition for the women’s game.
The quick-fire format is expected to be in place for the first two years, but there are plans to morph it into an expanded trans-Tasman competition in the near future.
It follows the historic exhibition Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and Blues women in May, when the Chiefs won 39-12 at Eden Park, and was the first of its kind.
Teams will come together for brief pre-season camps in December, January and February, before playing one pre-season match ahead of the competition.
Each team will contract 28 players and squads are expected to be announced in November.
Gold medal-winning Olympic coach with the Black Ferns sevens, Allan Bunting, will be in charge of the Chiefs.
Black Ferns assistant Wesley Clarke and Willie Walker will coach the Hurricanes and Blues respectively.
The South Island women’s Super Rugby team will be governed by the Crusaders but will have a unique name and brand identity.
The southern team will be coached by Canterbury’s Farah Palmer Cup coach, Blair Baxter, and is due to be unveiled next Tuesday.
While it will be governed by the Crusaders, it is in partnership with the Highlanders and will essentially operate as a separate organisation.
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