The Mitre 10 Cup will begin on September 11, as New Zealand Rugby today announced a revised competition schedule.
Reigning champions Tasman will kick off the 2020 season, taking on Counties Manukau away from home. The tournament begins one month later than usual, following the disruption to sport caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The competition will follow a 10-week round robin format, with both a championship and premiership division. The top four teams of each division will qualify for semi-finals, to be played on November 20 and 21, with the finals on November 27 and 28.
Following the success of Super Rugby Aotearoa's Sunday afternoon matches, the Mitre 10 Cup will follow suit, instead of Thursday night matches.
Kickoff times will also follow Super Rugby's initiative, switching from 7:35pm to 7:05pm. Two matches each week will also be shown free-to-air.
NZR's head of professional rugby hailed the confirmation of the Mitre 10 Cup, welcoming the return of provincial rugby.
"We have seen a real surge in interest in Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa in the past few weeks and have confidence that it will continue through to Mitre 10 Cup, which is a special competition in our rugby landscape," Chris Lendrum says.
"We know the provincial unions have been working hard in their preparation for this season and we are looking forward to what will be another exciting competition."
The Ranfurly Shield will also be on the line from August 28, when holders Canterbury face Meads Cup champions North Otago. Canterbury would also conceivably have shield challenges against Taranaki, Wellington, Waikato, Otago and Auckland.
Consultation is still in progress to see a women's Farah Palmer Cup be played this year.