The Crusaders have succumbed to the financial pressure caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The defending Super Rugby champions have been forced to let go of some staff due to changes being made to their operational model.

In a statement issued to NZME, Crusaders CEO Colin Mansbridge said cutting the jobs was an incredibly difficult process.

“We will not be commenting further as good people have been affected and their individual employment matters are private,” Mansbridge said.

“We would, however, like to acknowledge the immense contribution to our club from these individuals. This has been an incredibly painful and difficult process for those involved and we hope you will respect their privacy.”

The Super Rugby season’s been suspended since last month, with no clarity on when play will be able to resume and what the format may look like.

Last week SANZAAR chief executive Andy Marinos revealed that plans for a revamped version of Super Rugby will be on the table until the end of the year.

The competition was suspended last month when the coronavirus pandemic shut sport down around the world.

Since then, NZ Rugby pushed plans for a domestic version featuring New Zealand’s five Super Rugby franchises until the country moved into alert level 4, which stopped any further progress around the competition.

However, Marinos confirmed that NZ Rugby and the rest of the SANZAAR governing bodies will have the rest of the year to sort out their respective Super Rugby competitions.

“If you start getting towards the back end of September/October and we still haven’t had a resumption of rugby, I think logic would say that’s when we would consider [cancelling the season],” Marinos told Newshub.

“We have a calendar that can now go up until the end of December and our players are now on an extended period of rest, so we have until the end of 2020 to configure something.

“I wouldn’t want to be definitive as to when there is a point of no return. We have to work with the confines that we have and, at the moment, that looks like between May and December 31, to put a competition structure together and get a competition under our belts.”

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Marinos also confirmed that any resumption of Super Rugby will be based on a domestic format across New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. The Argentinian Jaguares would join South Africa and the Japanese Sunwolves would join the Australian teams.

Resuming the competition in its traditional form isn’t possible with current travel restrictions, he added.

“We will continue to work closely with all the governments and health authorities in all the jurisdictions we are playing. That’s central to our focus at this point.

“We have put a revised competition format to the front of the table, which is largely domestically focused and that is within the controls we can manage.

“That’s what we are looking at. We still have time and we will certainly look at how we optimise the international and ‘Super’ programmes, but the clear message is the Super format we are used to for so many years will become a local-market focus, without the necessary crossover.”

The top international players from those Super Rugby franchises could be missing, however, as a separate Rugby Championship competition is being planned to run in parallel with the proposed domestic competitions.

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