The final match of Super Rugby Aotearoa has been cancelled, the Farah Palmer Cup has been delayed and now it looks like New Zealand’s highly anticipated North Island v South Island clash will also be significantly impacted by the resurgence of COVID-19 in Auckland.
NZ Rugby general manager of professional rugby Chris Lendrum confirmed on Friday that the interisland match is locked in for August 21st – two weeks from today – but that the game may have to be shifted away from Auckland if the current restrictions remain in place.
“Friday is a bit of a drop-dead [date] for us. We’re going to have to make some calls by then and we’ll have to work with the information we have at hand at the time,” Lendrum said.
“If it were to remain at Alert Level 3 in Auckland beyond that date then clearly we couldn’t play the game in Auckland.
“We’ve got to look at contingencies and moving the fixture is absolutely one of them. Then there are some complications around players and management who reside in Auckland and how we get those people out of Auckland. And we’ve got to do that in conjunction with the Government.”
Many wanted the match to be played at a regional venue but Eden Park, as the largest stadium in New Zealand, was the obvious location in order to bring as many fans as possible through the doors.
While a regional venue is still unlikely, it’s looking increasingly probable that the game will be shifted away from Auckland.
“It’s a possibility it goes to Wellington or elsewhere,” Lendrum told Newstalk on Saturday. “All we know is at the moment Auckland is at Alert Level 3 and that doesn’t allow us to train or play rugby until August 26. That’s only three days before kickoff.
Ledrum also suggested that NZR are more than comfortable with staging a second iteration of Super Rugby Aotearoa next season without any further international involvement – although it wouldn’t be ideal.
“Our strong desire is to have some form of cross-border regional competition operating in 2021, but Covid, as always, is a hurdle and the last 72 hours have demonstrated again what a challenge it is for everybody, with no end in sight.
“Putting it another way, is it a possibility we have to run a domestic-only alternative next year? Yeah, it’s a possibility.”
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