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Self-isolating Crusaders' salvage operation

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'It's important for the social and mental health of New Zealand... we have a moral obligation to get it going'

Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson is self-isolating at home and the front door of the defending champions’ headquarters in suburban Christchurch is closed to all but staff and those who have essential appointments, but behind the scenes, it’s busier than ever.

According to Patrick McKendry of the New Zealand Herald, the Crusaders, along with New Zealand’s four other Super Rugby franchises, NZ Rugby and New Zealand’s Players’ Association are dedicating every working hour – and then some – on salvaging something from a season suspended and all but cancelled by the coronavirus pandemic.

New Zealand Rugby in lockdown over coronavirus concern

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At this point, everyone is confident a Kiwi competition will get the go-ahead. It would be played in empty stadiums but will likely attract a sizeable national and international audience and is a much-needed focal point during a crisis that will have huge ramifications on the game and society in general.

The possibility of rugby returning has kept the players and staff at the Crusaders upbeat despite the knowledge that they cannot go for their fourth Super Rugby championship in a row (although they will have claims to it if they win next year). 

Should the Kiwi competition be canned, however, the mood will plunge below Christchurch’s not entirely solid ground. “The thing about this place is that it’s amazing how people re-define opportunity or turn adversity into opportunity,” said Crusaders chief executive Colin Mansbridge.

“If there was no competition and we got nothing away this year in terms of rugby the deflation would be very severe and the sense of purpose and meaning would diminish somewhat, there’s no doubt about that.

“If we get this comp up it’s a different situation; there’s something to strive for. We’re taking the view that the competition is important for the social and mental health of New Zealand and therefore we have a moral obligation to get it going if we can in a highly risk-managed environment.

“It might not be a Super title that’s on the line, but boy, to be striving to win perhaps the only competition available in the world this year – that’s pretty exciting and that’s the mindset.”

Mansbridge, like Robertson, assistant coach Jason Ryan, 23 players and other management staff, is under voluntary self-isolation after travelling home from Brisbane on Sunday following the team’s victory over the Sunwolves.

In a bid to mitigate against the possibility of self-isolation, team manager Shane Fletcher did not travel, and neither did assistant coach Mark Jones.

“My sense is we have strong support throughout the community, including… government connections, who seem to realise what we’re trying to do,” he said of a return to the playing field. “We’re not getting any pushback. As long as we can manage the risk… there’s a really good possibility it will get up.”

The Crusaders are attempting to keep things as normal as possible. Conference calls have replaced meetings. “It’s surprising how quickly people have adapted,” he said. Those players who are self isolating are training at home or on the streets and those allowed in the Rugby Park gym do so in vastly reduced numbers and at different times.

“The overall principle we have picked up from the medical staff is that we should treat it like we’ve got the virus and don’t want to give it to others.”

New Zealand Herald 

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'It's important for the social and mental health of New Zealand... we have a moral obligation to get it going'
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