New Zealand ‘safe haven’ may host 2020 Rugby Championship series

New Zealand 'safe haven' may host 2020 Rugby Championship series

With success on home soil over a feared Coronavirus pandemic, SANZAAR will plan to look on New Zealand as a ‘safe haven’ from where to schedule and play the 2020 Rugby Championship.

In a media statement that retained the place of SANZAAR in a bereft International rugby market, it stated that ‘Having successfully restarted Super Rugby this year in Australia and New Zealand, our focus is now on The Rugby Championship (TRC) that is set to be played in one central location.

‘We have determined that New Zealand is currently the favoured option given the COVID stability within the region. Critical to this, however, is alignment with the New Zealand Government around its requirements for this to take place. SANZAAR is well advanced in option planning with New Zealand Rugby, which in turn, is now seeking New Zealand Government approval.

‘It is hoped that details on TRC will be announced in the near future’.

This timeline is still undefined yet, as are the conditions in which South Africa, Argentina, and Australia find themselves. Foretelling or, misguided, any sign that the ‘joint venture’ which is SANZAAR can continue to be relevant and a contestable 2020 Rugby Championship is a primary concern to Southern Hemisphere fans.

New Zealand may host 2020 Rugby Championship series

The World Champions may sit idle, practicing in self-isolation, but the Springboks will always need to test themselves against. The rivalry with the All Blacks, as well as Los Pumas and the Wallabies, is crucial. For the near term, planning for a championship to be hosted in the safest part of the rugbyworld seems like a good idea.

Cheslin Kolbe of South Africa passes the ball during a match at Padre Ernesto Martearena Stadium on August 10, 2019 in Salta, Argentina. (Photo by Marcelo Endelli/Getty Images)

The statement continues, ‘There is a clear understanding that the value of the SANZAAR alliance and the pathway of Super Rugby to international rugby remains critical to the long-term success, development, and competitiveness of the respective national teams.’

So the organization needs to stay relevant. And even if the schedule may be planned for no earlier than October or November, then it could be one of the few International competitions that could be imagined.

And where else in the world might you see a well organized, and safe championship happening? Not in Western Australia, as Andy Marinos so famously quipped in May. The continent has some advantages to travel from the republic yet, risk has increased so the best option is obviously New Zealand.

Currently New Zealand is the safest location to host TRC

The only active cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand are those within quarantine. It has successfully used its isolation to its own advantage. No inward tourism has hit the economy hard yet, the health of the community see’s rugby played openly and with crowds in attendance.

The idea of a singular 2020 Rugby Championship host could act as both a safe haven for players, as well as a much-needed boost of revenue for all partners. And Marinos knows that right now, each [including New Zealand] desperately requires that fundraising.

‘Unfortunately, the pandemic has been particularly tough for our partners in Argentina as the size and length of the ‘lockdown’ has meant they are not able to play in any further revised Super Rugby domestic competition this year. That said SANZAAR is continuing to work with the Argentina Rugby Union (UAR) in looking for solutions to give their players some meaningful match preparation as we look ahead to the rest of 2020 with The Rugby Championship.

‘SANZAAR is also assisting South Africa Rugby as it plans a return to play strategy in the weeks ahead.’

While still to be confirmed, the outline is that:

  • Fans might imagine that the incoming teams have to spend a 14-day isolation period, training happily as they prepare for a compressed schedule.
  • Teams should imagine that they are asked to play three matches within quick succession – easy, as only 12 months earlier, they played up to six matches on successive weekends.
  • Broadcast rights would be sold globally, therefore earning the SANZAAR joint venture a sizeable return for a 35-day exodus to Aotearoa; the land of rugby crowds and green, green grass.
  • This may see Australia remain for a follow-up Bledisloe Cup series, that could further benefit host and partner if International competition is still denied.

While an exercise in marketing and ‘rugby speak’ as much as risk management, SANZAAR must attempt to make the best of a bad situation. If the Northern Hemisphere remains off-limits then, the local market should and must satisfy fans’ thirst for Test rugby.

At this time, New Zealand is a safe haven. Although it may change, the likelihood is that a fair and contestable 2020 Rugby Championship would well be able to be completed at several grounds across the nation. And that would be great news for the game everywhere.


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