The New Zealand government has unveiled its rules for when the country moves from alert level three to level two, including changes to professional and community sport that would see professional rugby and netball competitions resume.
Following this news, New Zealand Rugby officials have unveiled plans for ‘Super Rugby Aotearoa’, a ten-week competition featuring the nation’s five Super Rugby franchises.
The changes, which New Zealand cabinet will announce a date on Monday, could see the competition begin as early as mid-June, after a three-to-four-week training period to ensure the players are ready for contact.
The five clubs, the Blues, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Crusaders and Highlanders, in the ten-week competition, will play each other home and way, with two matches each weekend in closed stadiums.
New Zealand Rugby chief executive, Mark Robinson, said Sanzaar has already given clearance for the competition.
“We’re delighted for our fans that in a best-case scenario we will have top-quality rugby back on our screens next month,” Robinson said.
“I know the players would prefer to be playing in front of our fans, but the health and safety of Kiwis must come first.
“For our fans, our players and everyone involved in Investec Super Rugby, we are thrilled that the sports minister has given the green light for professional sport to resume at level two.
“Both netball and rugby have been working closely with government agencies on what training and playing at level two could look like, and we are incredibly grateful for their support.
“While we want to see our game up and running as soon as possible, we won’t make decisions that will put anyone at risk.
“We have always said we will take the government’s lead on when it is safe to return,” he said.
Sanzaar chief executive, Andy Marinos, said global rugby fans would be excited action could restart in about a month and hinted Australia could be close to creating a similar local competition for the resumption of rugby once national restrictions are eased.
“We have known for some time that once the green light is given to recommence playing (in any of our territories) that a revised Super Rugby competition format would have to be implemented,” Marinos said.
“This will mean a strong domestic focus in each territory given the travel, border and government restrictions that we will have to adhere to,” he said.
A working group of players, clubs, Provincial Unions, the New Zealand Rugby Players’ Association and New Zealand Rugby had considered all the possible competition options and timings which were dependant on when alert levels dropped, and rugby could resume.