NZ's Super Rugby comp gets the green light
NEWS: Super Rugby in New Zealand is poised to resume when the country relaxes its COVID-19 lockdown, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Thursday, with bars, retailers and schools also set to open.
Ardern is due to announce next Monday whether New Zealand will move to ‘Alert Level Two’, which allows significantly more freedom than Kiwis have experienced since lockdown began in late March.
Under New Zealand’s four-tier alert system, social distancing protocols are enforced less stringently under level two, allowing contact sports including the national game of rugby union.
“Professional sport will be able to resume domestically under level two,” Ardern said.
“Super Rugby and the netball premiership have already confirmed their intention to resume a domestic competition, which I know will be cause for great excitement.”
New Zealand’s five Super Rugby teams have been out of action since the lockdown began and the game’s governing body said once clearance was confirmed it would have a competition running within four weeks.
Super Rugby Aotearoa involves New Zealand’s five teams – the Blues, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Crusaders and Highlanders – and has been developed by NZR in conjunction with SANZAAR, the Super Rugby clubs and the NZ Rugby Players’ Association (NZRPA).
The five teams will play each other home and away over 10 weeks, with two matches every weekend. All matches will be played in closed stadiums.
“Kiwi rugby fans love the local Super Rugby derbies, and they will now have 10 consecutive rounds to enjoy,” New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson said.
He said the players would need three to four weeks to adequately prepare with contact training before matches could commence.
“We’re delighted for our fans that in a best-case scenario we will have top-quality rugby back on our screens next month. I know the players would prefer to be playing in front of our fans, but the health and safety of Kiwis must come first.”
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Robinson stressed that the health and safety of everyone involved was our number one priority.
“While we want to see our game up and running as soon as possible, we won’t make decisions that will put anyone at risk. We have always said we will take the Government’s lead on when it is safe to return.”
A working group made up of players, Super Rugby franchises, Provincial Unions, the NZRPA and NZR had considered all the possible competition options and timings which were dependent on when alert levels dropped and rugby could resume.
Robinson said they were still working through the details of the Mitre 10 Cup and Farah Palmer Cup competitions, but they wanted to preserve the integrity of these competitions where they could. A decision on the All Blacks Series in July against Wales and Scotland will be made in the next fortnight.
SANZAAR CEO Andy Marinos said Super Rugby fans in New Zealand and across the globe would be excited that we may, in the near future, be able to restart rugby.
“We have known for some time that once the green light is given to recommence playing [in any of our territories] that a revised Super Rugby competition format would have to be implemented. This will mean a strong domestic focus in each territory given the travel, border and Government restrictions that we will have to adhere to.”
“Given today’s [Thursday’s] announcement by the New Zealand Government, SANZAAR will now in conjunction with NZR move to the implementation of the revised Super Rugby format that has been agreed upon by all SANZAAR partners and stakeholders. We will work with NZR around the possible start date that satisfies Government requirements.”
Additional source: AFP