AUCKLAND, New Zealand, Aug 14 – A Super Rugby match in Auckland was cancelled and fans were barred from another game elsewhere as officials battled a surge of coronavirus cases in New Zealand’s biggest city on Friday.
Sunday’s season-ending game between the Blues and Crusaders at Auckland’s 50,000-capacity Eden Park stadium was “officially off”, a statement said, after New Zealand extended its lockdown of the city.
The Highlanders v Hurricanes match in Dunedin on Saturday was declared off-limits to fans and brought forward by four hours to allow the visiting team to fly out on the same day, to limit interaction.
It brings a sobering close to New Zealand’s Super Rugby Aotearoa, a domestic stand-in for the cancelled international Super Rugby competition, which had been a rare instance of sport played in front of full houses during the pandemic.
Since four people tested positive on Tuesday — the first cases in community transmission in 102 days — New Zealand has detected a cluster of 30 virus cases, most of them in Auckland.
“We’re obviously disappointed that the Blues-Crusaders match is off, but we all understand and support the government’s decision around this,” said New Zealand Rugby (NZR) head of professional rugby, Chris Lendrum.
“Both teams have played outstanding rugby throughout the competition in front of packed crowds.”
Community rugby was also put on hold in the Auckland region and NZR was discussing possible implications for the showpiece North v South island game scheduled to take place at Eden Park on August 29.
The Crusaders, winners of the last three Super Rugby titles, had already been crowned champions of the domestic competition when they beat the Highlanders last week.