Ardie Savea questions 'health and safety' of four-hour Super Rugby Pacific bus trips
New Zealand Rugby [NZR] decided earlier this month to relocate its Super Rugby Pacific teams to a centralised hub in Queenstown for the opening three rounds of the competition in a bid to minimise the threat posed by Covid.
With no floodlit grounds in Queenstown, night matches across that time period will be held at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, despite originally being scheduled to be played at Invercargill’s Rugby Park.
As such, teams scheduled to play at Forysth Barr Stadium – NZR’s preferred venue due to its enclosed roof – will embark on a four-hour bus trip from Queenstown to Dunedin on the day they play, before returning to Queenstown after the match.
All in all, teams will be on the road for eight hours on game day, double the road time they would have endured had evening matches been staged in Invercargill as originally planned.
Speaking to media ahead of his side’s season-opener against the Crusaders in Dunedin on Saturday, Savea aired concerns about NZR’s travel arrangements for its teams.
“It’s not ideal, being on a bus for four hours, then having to play a professional rugby game, against a quality side – you think of the health and safety there,” Savea, who has been named to start at No 8 against the Crusaders, said.
“We’re trusting our trainers to just try and come up with something that will help us prep well. I think all the teams will be in the same situation.
“But we’ve got guys coming back from long-term injuries, and they’re quite nervous sitting on a bus for four hours and then having to play their first game.
“Hopefully with all this Covid stuff we’re able to go back home and play instead of driving four hours to play a match.”
By contrast, Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson was comparatively upbeat about the prospect of a long road-trip with his team ahead of their clash against the Hurricanes.
The Crusaders face the most travel of any of the Kiwi teams as all of their opening three matches are scheduled to be held Dunedin rather than in Queenstown, which will host afternoon fixtures at Wakatipu Rugby Club.
Robertson told media on Thursday that, given the bus trips are only a short-term measure, the Crusaders are looking to embrace their time on the road together in what they view as a unique situation by New Zealand rugby standards.
“I think the first thing is we just focus on playing footy and the rest works itself out,” Robertson said.
“Things like the bus trip, it’s four hours to get there, but we just try and frame it as it’s unique and it’s new. It’s not going to be for the whole season, probably a couple of times in our life we have to do it so let’s go out and embrace it.
“And they do it in Europe a lot. When I played in France we loved the bus trip and you just got used to it so it’s just how you frame things, your mindset towards it. Like I said, the uniqueness is quite cool, refreshing.”
In saying that, Robertson sympathised with fans, who will be unable to attend any matches under New Zealand’s nationwide red light Covid setting.
“I think we do feel for our supporters and the crowds because you normally get to Forsyth Barr and it’s humming, the crowd, the Zoo, everything’s pumping. So that’ll be different, but we’re just keen to play.”
Kick-off for the match between the Crusaders and Hurricanes in Dunedin is scheduled for 7:05pm.
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