Super Rugby scramble for solutions
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Super Rugby is exploring domestic derbies as a way of resuming competition after its coronavirus suspension.
The southern hemisphere club championship, which features 15 teams from five countries, was halted last weekend after New Zealand said all inbound travellers must self-isolate for 14 days to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Australia and South Africa quickly followed suit, leaving Super Rugby’s fate in the balance and clubs and national bodies facing the prospect of serious financial problems if the stoppage were to extend over a prolonged period.
However, New Zealand Rugby and Rugby Australia revealed that they are currently working on a domestic competition as an alternative.
As reported by Rugbypass , Sky TV, which has seen its share price drop rapidly over the past week or so, is also understood to be extremely keen to broadcast live rugby content and the prospect of the five Kiwi teams playing each other in full-blooded derbies, albeit possibly behind closed doors, is likely to also interest sport-starved rugby fans around the world.
With the Highlanders having returned on Tuesday from their cancelled game against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires – and facing a fortnight of self-isolation in accordance with the New Zealand government’s protocols brought over the weekend – any competition won’t start for two weeks at least.
But it is likely to be run over ten to twelve weeks and has been given the all-clear by SANZAAR chief executive Andy Marinos.
On same day New Zealand Rugby announced that all club rugby had been suspended until April 18 at the earliest, chief executive Mark Robinson, who has been in the job for four months, all but confirmed the imminent start of a Super Rugby replacement competition on Sky TV’s Breakdown programme.
He said his organisation’s priority was ensuring public safety, “but now our attention has shifted to how we make the best of this situation”.
Robinson added some Kiwi teams had opted to take the week off but he was in constant dialogue with them. “We know people are going to be interested because there are a lot of restrictions around what people can do at the moment. We’re very mindful of what our fans want at the moment. This is a fresh opportunity and we’ve got to take it and make something exciting out of it.”
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In Australia, Castle fronted the media on Tuesday and said discussions with governing body SANZAAR were underway on a number of alternative competition models.
It could see Australian teams Queensland Reds, NSW Waratahs, Melbourne Rebels and the Brumbies playing matches against each other and Japan’s Sunwolves, who are already in Australia.
“The travel restrictions mean that cross-border competition doesn’t seem realistic so domestic obviously leads the conversation,” Castle said.
“That’s all the work we’re doing and we expect we’d be able to communicate on that in the coming days.”
Sources: Rugbypass & AFP