Schools premier tournament to proceed but dates still undecided

Nothing has changed except the start date and possibly the prize at the end.

The Otago schools premier rugby tournament was meant to get under way earlier this month, but was put on hold while the country battled the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, with New Zealand emerging from Alert Level 3, the opportunities to play sport are beginning to open up.

Otago Secondary School Rugby Council chairman Greg Heller said that, realistically, kick-off was still more than a month away at best.

"We will take our direction from the Government but also New Zealand Rugby around the return to play," he said.

"It is still pretty fluid at the moment but what we know is the earliest date at which we could start, all going well, would be the 20th of June.

"We are working through a few scenarios but we are hopeful that we can just basically overlay our season."

That means the same draw and structure, just with a later start and new finishing line.

That could all change depending on how the country’s fight with the coronavirus is going and whether the National Top Four Finals go ahead.

If they do not, it will allow the Otago schools premier tournament to run later and finish the full season.

If they do, some tweaking will be needed to the draw.

Heller said there had not been a definitive decision about the National Top Four Finals but he felt they were unlikely to go ahead given New Zealand Rugby’s weakened financial position.

Funding for the Otago schools premier tournament was secured before Covid-19, so that is not an issue.

The format was rejigged following the 2019 season, which was notable for some lopsided encounters.

The 12 teams are split into a top six and bottom six based on the rankings from 2019. At the conclusion of the first round-robin, the teams ranked fifth and sixth are relegated and teams ranked seventh and eighth are promoted.

At the end of the second round the team will split into a top four, middle four and bottom four to compete for the respective trophies.


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