Strict protocols key for NZ competition

The Highlanders' first game after lockdown will be against the Chiefs in Dunedin in June. Photo:...
The Highlanders' first game after lockdown will be against the Chiefs in Dunedin in June. Photo: Getty Images
Super Rugby will not automatically stop if a player has Covid-19 but safety will be paramount and training will be under strict conditions.

New Zealand Rugby announced yesterday - shortly after the announcement of Thursday’s move to Level 2 - the draw for its revamped competition.

It will kick off on June 13 when the Highlanders take on the Chiefs in Dunedin.

Teams will travel to and from the venue on the same day and the games, which will be in closed stadiums, will be played on Saturdays at 5.05pm and Sundays at 3.05pm.

The 10-week competition will involve the teams playing home and away games. Each team will have two byes. The first game is set for June 13, a month tomorrow, and the final game is set for August 16.

Matches will be played in the main stadiums in Dunedin, Hamilton and Wellington. Christchurch and Auckland venues have yet to be confirmed.

NZR acting medical adviser Debs Robinson said yesterday the onus would be very much on sticking to the strict health protocols.

She said if a player tested positive to Covid-19 it would be very much dependent on the situation the player was in. The competition would not automatically shut down. Contact tracing would begin immediately and that would be carried out by health authorities.

The players would not be tested for the virus before the season started but would have daily temperature and symptom checks. Super Rugby was seen as a workplace so was not subject to the limit on gatherings, she said.

Players would be asked to limit their bubbles and training and travelling to games would look considerably different.

Players would need four weeks to train to get ready for the competition.

The competition, which has been endorsed by Sanzaar, will have no bearing on the wider Super Rugby competition.

NZR chief executive Mark Robinson said he was delighted for fans that they would have top-quality rugby on their screens in just over a month.

He said much hard work had gone into getting the competition structure worked out and the players and supporters were keen for it to start.

‘‘The thought of five world-class Kiwi teams battling it out in 20 matches over 10 weeks should put a smile back on the faces of many people. I know our players are excited and I’m sure rugby fans will be as well,” Robinson said.

The sport had shown some real leadership and it was critical the competition was done well.

There was a chance a North-South game or an All Black trial would be played between the end of the Super Rugby competition and the start of the Mitre 10 Cup.

NZR also announced the Mitre 10 Cup was set down to start on September 11 and Robinson said it was a 14-team competition to be played in a 12-week window so games would be played through to November. An amended draw would be released soon.

Robinson said NZR had made no secret of the fact, the sport could be played through until December this year. There were no new developments about getting the All Blacks up and running as there were still issues involving border controls and quarantines.

The Farah Palmer Cup was also on the agenda but there was still work to be done before a programme could be released.

With New Zealand hosting the Women’s World Cup next year, Robinson said the union wanted to have a vibrant Farah Palmer Cup leading into next year.


Covid-19 protocols at Level 2

  • Daily symptom and temperature check.
  • Anyone unwell must stay away, self-isolate and get tested.
  • Illnesses within bubbles must be reported.
  • Each team to have own contact tracing measures.
  • Stringent hygiene and cleaning practices.
  • Strict controls and records of who scan access team bases and match venues.
  • Encouraged to minimise contacts outside of the team and bubbles.
  • Teams travel by charter flights to matches.

Super Rugby Aotearoa

Highlanders draw

June 13: Chiefs, Dunedin, 5.05pm

June 27: Blues, Auckland, 5.05pm

July 4: Crusaders, Dunedin, 5.05pm

July 12: Hurricanes, Wellington, 3.05pm

July 19: Chiefs, Hamilton, 3.05pm

August 2: Blues, Dunedin, 3.05pm

August 9: Crusaders, Christchurch, 3.05pm

August 15: Hurricanes, Dunedin, 5.05pm


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