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Covid restrictions forces Crusaders to rejig pre-season schedule

By Sam Smith
Photo: Kerry Marshall / www.photosport.nz

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The Crusaders have been forced to move their second pre-season fixture against the Hurricanes from Blenheim to Christchurch in the wake of New Zealand’s Covid-19 restrictions.

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It was announced on Sunday that the entire country of New Zealand would move into its red light setting following the spread of the Omircon variant of the virus.

Under the new nationwide restrictions, the Crusaders have opted to relocate their clash against the Hurricanes, with chief executive Colin Mansbridge citing logistical and financial reasons behind the decision.

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“We have to plan logistics and provide certainty to a number of key stakeholders around our events, as well as doing all we can to minimise the financial risk to our club and those local partners who will be delivering and supporting the event,” Mansbridge said via a statement.

“Yesterday’s Government announcement confirming a move to the red traffic light setting has reaffirmed that it is no longer practical for us to proceed with this particular match as scheduled in Blenheim, and we cannot deliver this game in front of a crowd.

“Instead, we will look to reschedule a game against the Hurricanes behind closed doors in Christchurch.”

Mansbridge expressed his disappointment that the fixture won’t be played in Blenheim, which was the only match of the entire year that the Crusaders had planned to stage in the Tasman region.

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“It’s always a highlight of our pre-season to connect with fans in parts of the Crusaders region we don’t usually get to play,” he said.

“This news will be especially disappointing for the people of Blenheim who were really looking forward to seeing the first Super Rugby game played at Lansdowne Park since 2016.

“I want to thank Lyndon [Bray, chief executive] and his team at Tasman Rugby for all of their support.

“Tasman Rugby has worked closely with our Crusaders events team and put a significant amount of time and energy into planning for this game, and while we know they are also disappointed, we’re grateful for their understanding during what is a difficult time.”

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The Crusaders, as it currently stands, will still play their Farmlands Cup pre-season match against the Highlanders in Oamaru next Friday before opening their season agains the Hurricanes in Christchurch on February 18.

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