Super Rugby Aotearoa: Afternoon kick-offs victim of 2021 competition reprise

In many ways, afternoon kick-offs were the jewel in the Super Rugby Aotearoa crown - but some franchises have turned their backs on day-time rugby for 2021.

Early starts provided day-time rugby, packed stands and a better rugby experience… but they clearly weren't everyone's cup of tea.

The draw for the second edition of the competition has been unveiled, with just four Sunday games confirmed in areas where it worked.

"We've retained them at the venues where it really worked well at," says NZ Rugby professional rugby and performance general manager Chris Lendrum. 

"The afternoon kick-offs are generally really good for crowds and not quite as good for broadcast."

This year, every round had one afternoon fixture, but that will be scaled back to just four matches in 2021.

The Blues gets two of those, while the Crusaders and Hurricanes both get one each.

"Sunday afternoon kick-offs are superb for the competition and the fans, and I think the addition of a final was needed," says Hurricanes chief executive Avan Lee.

Both of those will be comforting to the Blues, who ultimately had to settle for runners-up this year, while Eden Park in particular thrived with day-time rugby.

The franchise wants to see more of that.

"For the Auckland market, it means our people in Northland can come and it works for us in this environment, so the more the better," says Blues CEO Andrew Hore.

Hore may just get his wish, revealing to Newshub that afternoon kick-offs are also on the agenda for a trans-Tasman crossover format at the conclusion of Super Rugby Aotearoa.

"It's not like you're beaming into Africa anymore, so we definitely see that and having a Sunday game - whether it's, say, Blues v Reds - would still have that carnival atmosphere

But rugby fans will only get a slight taste of it in 2021.