Melbourne Rebels claim early home games, tough finale for Super Rugby 2018 draw
Melbourne Rebels won’t face any dreaded New Zealand sides until round seven in next year’s Super Rugby fixture.
The draw for the 2018 season was released on Thursday with the Rebels opening the Australian conference campaign hosting Queensland Reds at AAMI Park on February 23 in the first of seven Friday night home games.
This year the Rebels faced four New Zealand clubs in the first six weeks, falling to losses from all four games as Australian clubs struggled to match their neighbours throughout the campaign.
The restructured 15-team league will see the Rebels play eight home and eight away games, including home-and-away games against the other three Australian sides and the Japanese Sunwolves.
Four of those home games come in the first six weeks before their first bye in week eight and the early chance to host the Reds, ACT Brumbies and Wellington Hurricanes should give the club a chance to lure strong home crowds, with all three teams enjoying good support in Melbourne.
But a challenging finale sees them host the NSW Waratahs and visit the Reds and New Zealand club Highlanders, meaning early wins will be essential.
Super Rugby has retained the momentum-killing international break in June, with the Rebels playing the Auckland Blues in New Zealand on June 2 and then being out of action until their last home game against the Waratahs on June 29.
Rebels chief executive Baden Stephenson said Australian derby games early and regular Friday home games were wins for the club.
“We’re certainly looking forward to the season ahead,” Stephenson said.
“We have a strong focus on making Rebels home games as entertaining for the whole family and enticing new markets at a time when there is no Big Bash, AFL or NRL on in Melbourne.”
The Rebels will have a two-game South African tour in late April, facing the Stormers in Cape Town and the Bulls in Pretoria.
South African clubs will kick off the season on February 17 with a stand-alone round before the Australian and New Zealand conferences enter the seasons in week two.
Melbourne Rebels schedule 2018 (all games AEST)
Round 1 South Africa games only (AUS and NZ conference bye)
Round 2 Rebels v Reds, AAMI Park, February 23, 7.45pm
Round 3 Sunwolves v Rebels, Singapore, March 3, 8pm
Round 4 Rebels v Brumbies, AAMI Park, March 9, 7.45pm
Round 5 Waratahs v Rebels, Sydney, March 18, 4.05pm
Round 6 Rebels v Sharks, AAMI Park, March 23, 7.45pm
Round 7 Rebels v Hurricanes, AAMI Park, March 30, 7.45pm
Round 8 Bye
Round 9 Rebels v Jaguares, AAMI Park, AAMI Park, April 14, 3.15pm
Round 10 Bulls v Rebels, Pretoria, April 21, 11.05pm
Round 11 Stormers v Rebels, Cape Town, April 27, 3.10am
Round 12 Rebels v Crusaders, AAMI Park, May 4, 7.45pm
Round 13 Brumbies v Rebels, Canberra, May 12, 7.45pm
Round 14 Bye
Round 15 Rebels v Sunwolves, AAMI Park, May 25, 7.45pm
Round 16 Blues v Rebels, venue TBC, June 2, 3.15pm
Round 17 Rebels v Waratahs, AAMI Park, June, 29 7.45pm
Round 18 Reds v Rebels, Brisbane, July 6, 7.45pm
Round 19 Highlanders v Rebels, venue TBC, July 14, 3.15pm