#CORONAVIRUS: SANZAAR's dramatic response
NEWS: SANZAAR has taken the unprecedented step of playing a game behind closed doors, as a response to the ever-growing threat of the coronavirus.
Fans will be locked out of this weekend’s Super Rugby clash between the Jaguares and the Highlanders in Buenos Aires, making it the first game in the competition to go behind closed doors over the virus.
Officials in Australia and New Zealand are also monitoring the situation, as the possibility of more dramatic changes is not being ruled out.
Two Sunwolves games have been moved from Japan to Australia because of the virus, but Saturday’s game between the Jaguares and the Highlanders is the first to bar spectators.
The decision follows an edict from Buenos Aires city authorities banning fans from all major sports events for the next 30 days.
“Super Rugby is an international cross-border competition and with the global outbreak of the coronavirus in recent weeks we always knew that unfortunately at some stage there would be an effect on the tournament,” Super Rugby CEO Andy Marinos said in a statement.
He added that the other six matches this weekend in New Zealand, Australia and South Africa would go ahead as normal.
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Sports events around the world have been upended by the virus, including this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, which was cancelled on Friday.
New Zealand Rugby said in a statement they have consulted with SANZAAR, Eden Park, Waikato Stadium and the Ministry of Health and can confirm that New Zealand hosted Super Rugby matches will “continue as normal” during Round Seven of the competition.
The Chiefs are hosting the Hurricanes in Hamilton on Friday, while the Blues versus Lions match is at Eden Park on Saturday.
“This is also in keeping with the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 advice on public events and mass gatherings,” an NZ Rugby statement said.
“We are closely monitoring what’s happening in other sporting codes around the world but are taking our advice from the New Zealand Government.
“The safety of our players, fans and stakeholders is our paramount consideration and we will continue to work closely with the New Zealand Government, SANZAAR, and our Super Rugby clubs to monitor what is a fast-moving situation.
“We advise any rugby fans who are feeling unwell to follow the Ministry of Health guidelines and stay away from mass gatherings.”
* Meanwhile Rugby Australia officials are meeting to determine how to handle the coronavirus threat ahead of three Super Rugby matches on Australian soil this weekend.
An RA spokesman said the governing body was still abiding by its midweek stance on the pandemic, which was to assess the health of players and officials on a daily basis.
Brisbane is scheduled to host a double-header on Saturday, with the Sunwolves versus Crusaders game at Lang Park to be followed by the Reds against the Bulls.
The game involving the Japan-based Sunwolves against the Crusaders has already been moved from its original venue in Tokyo because of the coronavirus lockdown in that city.
That match follows last week’s fixture where the Sunwolves played the Waratahs in Wollongong in a match that was moved away from its initial location in Osaka.
Canberra’s GIO Stadium is scheduled to stage the Australian derby between the Brumbies and Waratahs on Sunday.