Rugby fans will need to savour this weekend’s Super Rugby action, because it’s the last action they’ll see for the “foreseeable future” after governing body Sanzaar suspended this year’s tournament due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Their hands was forced by Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister, on Saturday announcing new, tighter border controls that will require all individuals entering the country to go into 14-day self-isolation.
Sanzaar said it “completely understands the directive issued by the New Zealand Government given concerns globally over the Covid-19 virus and the primary aim to reduce exposure and spread of the virus”.
No clear indication of any resumption was forthcoming.
“We are extremely disappointed for the players, our fans, broadcasters and partners but given the complexity of our competition structure, and the multiple geographies that we cover, we have no other option but to align with such directives. We also believe it is time for all those players currently overseas to return home and to be with their families,” said Sanzaar CEO Andy Marinos.
“Our priority is, therefore, to ensure our players are within their homes territories from the end of this weekend. SANZAAR will also remain engaged with its stakeholders and will continue to explore avenues to see if we can keep the rugby product alive within our core markets, with the possibility to be in a position to resume the tournament if at all possible in future weeks. We have currently played seven rounds out of the 18 in the normal regular season”.
To put the implications of Ardern’s new measures into perspective, one only needed to look at the South African franchise’s logistics for the next few weeks.
The Bulls would’ve remained in Australia to play the Waratahs in Sydney next week, but then needed to fly to New Zealand to complete the final two matches of their tour.
However, with the country then requiring Pote Human and his troops to self-isolate for those two weeks, it simply wouldn’t have made sense to fulfill those fixtures.
The Lions theoretically could’ve completed their tour against the Highlanders next week as they’d already been in New Zealand, but the problem is their hosts have to return from Argentina and will miss the curfew.
The Stormers – the only local side that still needs to start it’s trip to Australasia – would’ve hoped the fact that they only fly out the week of 25 April helped their “cause”.