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Mass scheduling changes as Covid wreaks havoc in Super Rugby Pacific

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

New Zealand Rugby [NZR] have released a revised Super Rugby Pacific draw for this weekend in the wake of Covid outbreaks throughout three Kiwi franchises.

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The Blues, Highlanders and Crusaders are the latest sides to have fallen victims to the virus, with all three teams dealing with numerous positive cases within their playing groups.

As such, NZR have altered this weekend’s Super Rugby Pacific schedule, which will see Moana Pasifika host the Chiefs at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday in what will be the only New Zealand-based match to take place in round five.

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The match will be Moana Pasifika’s first home game since joining Super Rugby Pacific this season as the new expansion franchise have remained at their temporary Queenstown base that they relocated to at the beginning of the campaign.

Moana Pasifika were supposed to face the Chiefs in round two of Super Rugby Pacific, but that fixture, as well as their season-opener against the Blues, were both postponed due to a Covid outbreak within their squad.

Both of those games were rescheduled to played as mid-week matches in round seven and round nine, but Moana Pasifika’s revised April 12 clash against the Chiefs will no longer need to be played due to their match on Saturday.

Moana Pasifika were initially set to face the Highlanders in Dunedin this weekend, but that fixture has now been postponed, as have the other scheduled matches between the Blues and Crusaders in Christchurch, and Hurricanes and Chiefs in Wellington.

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While none of those fixtures have been cancelled, NZR now face a tight deadline to find room for those matches to be played before the cross-border games against the Australian teams get underway from April 22.

NZR must also find room for last weekend’s postponed match between Moana Pasifika and the Hurricanes, which has been delayed indefinitely after the Hurricanes were unable to field a team due to an outbreak of the virus.

“We are looking at the schedule and believe there are opportunities to play those matches without major disruption to the draw and will announce details in due course,” NZR head of tournaments and competitions Cameron Good said in a statement on Wednesday.

Good added that several factors had been taken into consideration before the decision was made to postpone all Kiwi-based round five matches and replace them by bringing forward Moana Pasifika’s match against the Chiefs.

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“Like many businesses around New Zealand we continue to deal with the disruptions of COVID on our people, and the health of the Blues, Highlanders and Crusaders players and staff was the key consideration in withdrawing those teams from this weekend’s matches,” he said.

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“With three teams remaining we had to look at what was the best outcome for the competition and a key consideration was to ensure Moana Pasifika got back on the field again after having three matches postponed through the opening month of the season, which is exciting for the club and their fans.

“This change also allows Moana Pasifika to catch up on their previously postponed round two match against the Chiefs.

“This has been a tough call on the Hurricanes who had initially been scheduled to play the Chiefs and I would like to acknowledge the Hurricanes for their understanding and cooperation in putting the competition first.”

The Australian-based Super Rugby Pacific round five fixtures remain unaffected, and Good said changes to New Zealand’s border restrictions was a welcome boost to the competition.

“The easing of border restrictions allows New Zealand Rugby to plan with more certainty toward teams traveling into New Zealand later in the season, both for Super Rugby Pacific and for our international schedules,” he said.

“We are looking forward to our Super Rugby Pacific teams heading across the Tasman in April to play the Australian teams, notably for the Super Round in Melbourne over Anzac weekend, and also welcoming the Australian teams to New Zealand in May.”

Super Rugby Pacific round five schedule

Friday, March 18: Brumbies vs Reds at GIO Stadium in Canberra, 7:45pm kick-off (local time)

Saturday, March 19: Fijian Drua vs Western Force at Leichardt Oval in Sydney, 2:35pm kick-off (local time)

Saturday, March 19: Moana Pasifika vs Chiefs at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland, 7:05pm kick-off (local time)

Saturday, March 19: Waratahs vs Melbourne Rebels at Sydney Cricket Ground in Sydney, 7:45pm kick-off (local time)

Indefinitely postponed Super Rugby Pacific matches

  • Hurricanes vs Moana Pasifika (originally scheduled to be played at Sky Stadium in Wellington in round four)
  • Highlanders vs Moana Pasifika (originally scheduled to be played at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin in round five)
  • Crusaders vs Blues (originally scheduled to be played at Orangetheory Stadium in Christchurch in round five)
  • Hurricanes vs Chiefs (originally scheduled to be played at Sky Stadium in Wellington in round five)
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