Chiefs to Open Super Rugby Defense After South Africa-Only Start

The 2014 Super Rugby competition will open with a South Africa-only round before New Zealand’s Chiefs begin their title defense the following week.

The southern hemisphere’s elite provincial competition will start its 19th season on Feb. 15 with the Cheetahs hosting the Lions in Bloemfontein and the Bulls visiting the Durban-based Sharks, tournament organizer South Africa, New Zealand and Australia Rugby said.

The Chiefs, who beat Australia’s ACT Brumbies in the Aug. 3 final, start their bid for a third straight championship Feb. 21 at record seven-time winners the Crusaders in Christchurch.

South African teams will be off in Round 17 on June 27 and 28 because the Springboks’ home Test matches in June are on different dates to their southern hemisphere rivals.

The playoffs are scheduled to start July 18 with final taking place on Aug. 2.

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