In 72 days South Africa will kick off the new Guinness PRO14 season when the Cheetahs host 2015 champions Glasgow Warriors in Bloemfontein on September 27.
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All five unions within the Guinness PRO14 will host a game in Round 1 with Ulster and Ospreys also playing on opening night in Belfast as Benetton Rugby, Scarlets and Edinburgh complete the slate of home fixtures.
For the first time ever, fans can plan their weekends right up until Round 20 with all kick-off times and dates laid out right to the penultimate weekend of the regular season.
The Cheetahs and Glasgow Warriors fixture will kick-off a mammoth 152 games schedule that will culminate in the toughest run-in yet, as local and international rivals set their sights on lifting the Guinness PRO14 trophy won by Leinster in May.
From Round 14 to 21 there will be only two-weekend breaks in play as teams compete for precious placings in the Guinness PRO14 Final Series with seedings and Champions Cup qualification will all be up for grabs in a nine-week stretch. Details on the knock-out stages will be confirmed in due course.
The tribal derby games that sit at the heart of the Guinness PRO14’s intense rivalries are spread across eight rounds. This season, the calendar has allowed for the Welsh derby games to return to their traditional Boxing Day slot with Cardiff Blues facing Dragons in the east and Scarlets hosting Ospreys in the west.
The kick-off times for Round 21 will be set in early 2020 with a full round of derby matches providing added intrigue to the final day of the regular season. The first five rounds of the campaign will take place during the Rugby World Cup to help avoid a clash with the Guinness Six Nations which has led to only one weekend in a direct overlap with Test matches throughout the season (R12).
Due to the time difference in Japan there will be no direct clashes with kick-off times in the Guinness PRO14 so fans will able to take in all of the rugby on offer during this period.
The number of traditional 15:00 kick-off times in the UK and Ireland has increased by 75% from the 2018/19 season and sees 30 games scheduled for that time slot in the new campaign.
The location, date and kick-off time of the 2020 Guinness PRO14 Final will also be confirmed in the near future.
Tournament Director, David Jordan, was pleased to see the new season kick off in South Africa for the very first time: “After two years the Toyota Cheetahs and Isuzu Southern Kings have begun to establish themselves in the Guinness PRO14 and with each side starting with three home games there is a real opportunity for both of them to become a greater threat.
“We’re also pleased to have increased the number of 3pm kick-off times on Saturdays which works well for fans with families and for the broadcast audience. It’s also going to be one of the toughest schedules we’ve put together and thanks to the new global season we have a run-in that barely pauses for breath over the final nine weeks of the regular season.”
Speaking about the schedule for the 2019/20 season, Jordan entering his 16thseason with the Championship, added: “Once again we have managed to take a big step forward in our scheduling thanks to the support of all our broadcast partners. Last season we reached Round 17, but this year we have gone all the way up to Round 20 which is terrific news for our teams and our supporters.
“Unlike the more traditional domestic competitions, our teams journey out of their own country for the majority of their games and by setting out the fixtures so far in advance, it allows them to get more value out of their travel logistics. It all adds up to investing more resources into their 80 minutes on the pitch and that is what everyone involved wants to see each weekend.
“With the season just 72 days away work has already begin to ramp up as we prepare for another exciting and unpredictable Guinness PRO14 season and I would like to wish all our teams, players and coaches good fortune in the months ahead, particularly those involved in the upcoming World Cup in Japan.”