By Lee Stace
THE HIGHLANDERS, Chiefs and Hurricanes should be applauded for their decision to take Super Rugby games to the outlying areas of their regions next year.
All three will play games outside their respective Dunedin, Hamilton and Wellington bases in 2012.
The Chiefs will play their March 16 clash against the Brumbies in Tauranga and their May 5 showdown with the Lions in Pukekohe.
The ‘Canes have confirmed they will tackle the Sharks in New Plymouth on April 6 and the Highlanders will host the Rebels in Invercargill on March 30.
It is a smart move by those franchises, especially the Chiefs and Hurricanes who struggled to draw a crowd at their respective Waikato and Westpac stadium home bases last year.
Historically, fans in the provinces turn out in full force whenever a Super Rugby game is held in their neck of the woods.
And if the recent Rugby World Cup is any gauge, then they will likely do the same in 2012 when the Chiefs, Hurricanes and Highlanders roll into town.
It is understandable that the Crusaders want to play their home games in Christchurch next year, given the February 22 earthquake denied their fans there the opportunity to see the team in action last year.
But what is the Blues’ excuse?
The Pat Lam-coached side, who played the Cheetahs in Whangarei this season, will contest all of its home matches at Eden Park next year.
Poor form from the three-time Super Rugby winners.
With the series level, expect both teams to put it all on the line as they seek to win the deciding test in Sydney on Saturday night.