Super Rugby Pacific jeopardised by New Zealand's new border restrictions
The inaugural edition of Super Rugby Pacific has come under threat following the announcement of New Zealand’s new border restrictions.
The New Zealand Government revealed on Wednesday that New Zealand citizens and residents returning from Australia won’t have to go through MIQ from January 17, but will still be required to complete a week-long isolation from home.
From February 13, fully-vaccinated New Zealanders will be able to return to New Zealand from all other countries without going through the MIQ process, while it won’t be until April 30 that double-vaccinated foreigners will be afforded the same luxury.
That news is a positive for offshore-based Kiwis and those keen on coming into the country, but it poses an issue for New Zealand Rugby and Rugby Australia.
With teams entering or returning to New Zealand required to undergo seven days of home isolation, the competition has been left in an untenable position.
Unless it follows the lead of other trans-Tasman sporting competitions like the NRL, A-League and NBL by staging the entire tournament in one country, it remains to be seen how the revamped version of Super Rugby will go forth as planned.
The New Zealand-based teams in the NRL (Warriors), A-League (Wellington Phoenix) and NBL (Breakers) have played virtually all of their last two seasons in Australia under the current and previous restrictions.
However, Super Rugby Pacific would face a bigger task of accomodating seven foreign teams – the Blues, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Crusaders, Highlanders, Moana Pasifika and Fijian Drua – in Australia if the competition was to be solely staged there.
Likewise, it would be a significant ask to host the five Australian franchises, the Reds, Brumbies, Waratahs, Rebels and Force, as well as the Drua, in New Zealand if NZR and RA opt to hold Super Rugby Pacific, which runs from February to June, entirely out of that side of the Tasman.
New Zealand’s Minister for Sport Grant Robertson indicated that sports teams would not be granted exemptions from the seven-day isolation requirements.
“Of course I want the Super Rugby competition to take place but we’re always led by the health advice and this has been the case all the way through there hasn’t been a shift in the length of time,” Robertson said.
“The Ministry of Health’s advice has been consistently not to have shortened isolation times so if sports teams are going to use this it will be the same length of time.
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“It’s certainly one of the issues we’re looking into. What this does do is free up a significant amount of MIQ space, so if that needs to be used by sporting teams it can be.
“Sporting teams have been able to train while they’re in MIQ so the difference between being in MIQ or a bespoke arrangement isn’t actually that significant.”
NZR’s general manager of high performance Chris Lendrum responded to Wednesday’s announcement by admitting that scheduling alterations may be necessary for next year’s competition.
“Like many other national sports organisations and businesses, we have been waiting for some direction around what the plan is for the re-opening of New Zealand’s borders,” Lendrum said, as per the New Zealand Herald.
“We are now digesting today’s Government announcement and what it means for New Zealand Rugby and our competitions in 2022.
“Today’s news has the potential to specifically affect the Super Rugby Pacific competition given it is scheduled to kick off on February 18.
“We now need to see more detail from Government and continue working on our existing contingency planning with key partners including Rugby Australia, SANZAAR and our teams.”
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