New hurdle for North-South match
NEWS: New Zealand’s planned North-South match has stumbled into a new hurdle.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday extended a lockdown in New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, saying more time was needed to ensure a stubborn cluster of coronavirus infections was under control.
Ardern said stay-at-home orders would remain in place across Auckland until at least late Sunday, instead of restrictions easing late Wednesday as originally planned.
This has cast fresh doubts on the ability of NZ Rugby to stage the match – which has already been delayed a week.
The match, originally scheduled for this coming Saturday, August 29, is now set to be played next Saturday, September 5, either in Auckland or Wellington.
Auckland went into lockdown on August 12, a day after the virus re-emerged in the city, ending New Zealand’s record of 102 days without community transmission.
The cluster has since grown from four to 101 and its source remains unknown, despite extensive genome testing and contact tracing.
Ardern said more cases were likely and health authorities needed to confirm the cluster was contained before changing the lockdown settings.
She said even when the Auckland restrictions are eased, the entire country could remain at Level Two, the second-lowest rating on New Zealand’s four-tier virus alert system.
It means social distancing and limits on mass gatherings until at least Sunday, September 6.
Mass gatherings will be restricted to 10 people at Level Two, and a 50-person limit would be in place for funerals and tangi.
Those settings will be in place for a week and Cabinet will review them on Sunday, September 6.
Auckland’s restrictions effectively rule out the match being held at Eden Park, which leaves Wellington as the likely venue, although it would have to be without fans with normal Level Two restrictions still in place for the rest of the country.
Playing the game in Dunedin is also an option under the roof of Forsyth Barr Stadium.
Complicating the situation is that Auckland-based players in the North squad, as well as five support staff, had not been granted an exemption to leave Auckland.
If Auckland comes out of Level Three next Monday, as expected, those players will be able to join the rest of the squads in Wellington on Monday to prepare for the match in the capital.
The North and South squads (and the player’s first province played for) are as follows:
Hookers: Asafo Aumua (Wellington), Ash Dixon (Hawke’s Bay) and Kurt Eklund (Auckland).
Props: Alex Fidow (Wellington), Ayden Johnstone (Waikato), Angus Ta’avao (Auckland), Karl Tu’inukuafe (North Harbour) and Ofa Tuungafasi (Auckland).
Locks: Scott Scrafton (Auckland), Patrick Tuipulotu (Auckland and captain) and Tupou Vaa’i (Taranaki).
Loose forwards: Lachlan Boshier (Taranaki), Akira Ioane (Auckland), Dalton Papalii (Auckland), Ardie Savea (Wellington) and Hoskins Sotutu (Auckland).
Scrumhalves: TJ Perenara (Wellington), Aaron Smith (Manawatu) and Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (Taranaki).
Flyhalves: Beauden Barrett (Taranaki).
Midfielders: Rieko Ioane (Auckland), Anton Lienert-Brown (Waikato) and Peter Umaga-Jensen (Wellington).
Outside backs: Caleb Clarke (Auckland), Mitchell Hunt (Auckland), Damian McKenzie (Waikato), Sevu Reece (Waikato) and Mark Telea (North Harbour).
Hookers: Liam Coltman (Otago), Andrew Makalio (Tasman) and Codie Taylor (Canterbury).
Props: George Bower (Otago), Alex Hodgman (Canterbury), Nepo Laulala (Canterbury), Tyrel Lomax (Tasman) and Joe Moody (Canterbury).
Locks: Mitchell Dunshea (Canterbury), Manaaki Selby-Rickit (Southland) and Samuel Whitelock (Canterbury and captain).
Loose forwards: Tom Christie (Canterbury), Shannon Frizell (Tasman), Dillon Hunt (Otago), Reed Prinsep (Canterbury) and Tom Sanders (Canterbury).
Scrumhalves: Finlay Christie (Tasman), Mitchell Drummond (Canterbury) and Brad Weber (Otago).
Flyhalves: Josh Ioane (Otago) and Richie Mo’unga (Canterbury).
Midfielders: Braydon Ennor (Canterbury), Leicester Faingaanuku (Tasman), Jack Goodhue (Canterbury) and Sio Tomkinson (Otago)
Outside backs: Jordie Barrett (Canterbury), George Bridge (Canterbury) and Will Jordan (Tasman).
A number of players were unavailable for selection due to injury, including 2019 All Blacks Dane Coles, Scott Barrett, Sam Cane and Ngani Laumape.
Sources: AFP & NZ Herald