Kiwi teams' desperate move to save Super Rugby
SPOTLIGHT: All six of the New Zealand-based Super Rugby sides will pack up next week and temporarily move to a hub in Queenstown in a bid to avoid COVID-19 wreaking havoc on the fixtures.
The inaugural campaign of Super Rugby Pacific kicks off on February 18, but the threat of COVID-19 looms large over the season.
The Perth-based Western Force have already announced they will move to the east coast for the early rounds of the season due to WA’s border closure.
And now the Blues, Hurricanes, Chiefs, Crusaders, Highlanders, and newcomers Moana Pasifika will base themselves in Queenstown for at least the first three rounds of the season.
It’s hoped the teams can return from the South Island to their home bases in March.
NZR general manager Chris Lendrum said the move would minimise the risk of COVID-19 forcing entire teams into quarantine.
“Under current COVID-19 regulations it would only take one positive case entering a squad environment to shut down an entire squad for 10 days,” Lendrum said.
“The knock-on effect for the rest of the competition would be the postponement or cancellation of matches.
“By moving the teams to a secure hub, we believe we have a good chance of preventing a COVID-19 infection, or close contact event, sidelining one of our teams for a prolonged period.”
The squads will operate in separate bubbles with exclusive use of training facilities in the Queenstown area.
Day matches will be played in Queenstown at the Wakatipu Rugby Club, and teams will travel by bus to Rugby Park in Invercargill for night matches.
While temporary solutions have been made for the early part of the season, the real trouble could begin from round 10 onwards when the fixture will see teams from Australia and NZ travel back and forth to play each other.
All six matches in round 10 will be played at AAMI Park in Melbourne, which could represent a big problem for NZ teams when they are due to return home.
Depending on the border situation of each country at the time, it may be necessary to base the entire competition in either Australia or NZ for the latter part of the season.