The nib Blues, Chiefs Manawa, Hurricanes Poua and Matatū, will play across five weekends beginning February 2023.
The head coaches to lead their Sky Super Rugby Aupiki squads have been confirmed, including the first female head coaches named.
The four Sky Super Rugby Aupiki head coaches are:
Chiefs Manawa: Crystal Kaua
Hurricanes Poua: Victoria Grant
Blues: Willie Walker
Matatū: Blair Baxter
New Zealand Rugby (NZR) General Manager Professional Rugby and Performance Chris Lendrum said he was thrilled to announce the quality of head coaches the Super Rugby clubs have assembled for 2023.
“It was great to have the inaugural season of Sky Super Rugby Aupiki take place earlier this year. Even though the teams faced disruptions due to Covid, it produced exciting rugby and saw some incredible talent on display.”
"We are thrilled to announce the appointments of Crystal Kaua and Victoria Grant as the head coaches of Chiefs Manawa and Hurricanes Poua respectively. We are committed to providing pathways for women coaches in our game. This is testament to the work achieved by these wahine and those who have assisted their development. It is an exciting time for them both and we are looking forward to seeing them continue their coaching journey,” said Lendrum.
Walker returns following a successful 2022 Sky Super Rugby Aupiki campaign with the Blues. Walker, current Auckland Storm coach, has been instrumental in the development of the Blues women’s programme.
Kaua will now lead the Chiefs Manawa squad after assisting former Chiefs Manawa head coach Allan Bunting to their inaugural title win. Kaua, who has spent 2022 as the Black Ferns Sevens Performance Analyst and Skills Coach will join Grant in being named as the first female head coach of a Super Rugby club.
Grant has had an impressive coaching journey to date and will step into the head coaching role after being Black Ferns Assistant Coach Wesley Clarke’s understudy for the Hurricanes Poua’s inaugural season.
Baxter led Canterbury to another successful Farah Palmer Cup victory earlier this month, following his inaugural season of Sky Super Rugby Aupiki with Matatū. The Christchurch based coach has also been involved with several other Canterbury representative teams in recent years.
Lendrum was excited to see Sky Super Rugby Aupiki’s competition extended.
“We are thrilled to have the competition extended this coming season. It will provide greater exposure for a number of talented players. Sky Super Rugby Aupiki is fast, open and exciting rugby; it will be our first taste of the women’s game after Rugby World Cup 2021 and we know teams and fans alike will be looking forward to kicking off come February,” said Lendrum.
The opening round of Sky Super Rugby Aupiki will kick off on Saturday 25 February with the Hurricanes Poua hosting Chiefs Manawa at 2.05pm in Levin, while Matatū will welcome the Blues to the deep south, hosting in Dunedin at 4.35pm.
Teams will play a round robin format for the first three weeks of competition before heading into play-offs. Semi-finals on Sunday 19 March will determine the two teams in the Final and third/fourth play-off, both of those matches to be held on Saturday 25 March.
All Sky Super Rugby Aupiki matches will be broadcasted live and exclusive on SKY.
Players will assemble for one preseason match in February before coming together four days a week through the competition window.
Clubs will announce their respective squads later in the year.
Super Rugby Aupiki at a glance:
Saturday 25 February: Hurricanes Poua v Chiefs Manawa, Levin.
4 teams: Blues, Chiefs Manawa, Hurricanes Poua and Matatū
6 regular season matches + 4 play-off matches
Season Length: 5 weeks
Total Matches: 10
Semi Finals: 19 March, Final + 3rd/4th play-off: 25 March.
Click HERE to view the 2023 Super Rugby Aupiki draw.