NSW will play eight of their opening 10 games of next season’s Super 14 campaign in Australia after being handed a dream draw by SANZAR.
But the same can’t be said for Queensland Reds who begin the season with a tricky two-game trip to South Africa and must travel to New Zealand three times in the space of five weeks near the end of their campaign.
The Waratahs kick off 2009 with a tough match-up against last season’s semi-finalists the Hurricanes in Wellington before returning home for clashes with the Chiefs, Highlanders and Reds, all of who finished well short of a top-four berth last season.
NSW then travel to Canberra to tackle the Brumbies before spending four of the next five weeks at home, starting with a blockbuster grand final re-match against the Crusaders.
After a bye in round 11, the Waratahs finish the season with a three-game trip to South Africa where they tackle the Cheetahs, who finished 13th last season, Sharks (third) and Lions (last).
“Our biggest positive is the nine week stretch where we play eight matches in Australia, seven of them in Sydney,” Waratahs coach Chris Hickey said.
“That’s going to be our most crucial period of the season because if we don’t pick up points at home we’re just making it even tougher for ourselves to qualify for the finals with our last three games in South Africa.”
The Force have also received a favourable run.
John Mitchell’s charges will play just four games outside of Australia compared with six for the Brumbies and five each for the Reds and Waratahs.
The Force, who finished eighth last season with a 7-6 record, have been granted seven home games this season after being given just six this year.
The Reds start 2009 with away assignments against the Bulls and Stormers before playing their first home game of the season in week three against the lowly Cheetahs.
But it is from round 9-13 where it gets tricky for Queensland.
After meeting the Highlanders in Invercargill, the Reds head back to home to tackle the Lions, go back to New Zealand to meet the Blues, return to Queensland to host the Brumbies before jetting off again to meet the Crusaders in Christchurch.
Like Queensland, the Brumbies will be forced to travel to NZ three times in 2009, while they also face a testing three-game trip to South Africa from rounds 6-8.
The competition retains its top-four play-off format for 2009 after Australia and New Zealand baulked at South Africa’s demands for at least two of their teams to feature in the finals — irrespective of where they finished — if it expanded to a top-six setup.