Even as the New Zealand Government was making the official announcement, NZ Rugby was poised to react. News that a Covid-19 recurrence in the Queen City is now set to spoil an enthralling Blues v Crusaders finale.
The last game of the scheduled Super Rugby Aotearoa season; more often a grand final in other regular seasons, was this year going to see the top two seeds clash for ‘bragging rights’ on Sunday. But no more, as crowd restrictions and the alert levels in reaction to localized Coronavirus outbreaks, put paid to that combination.
Now, just one of two local derby games will continue. The Highlanders will host the Hurricanes at a new time of 3:05pm. The altered schedule is to accommodate a private charter flight for the ‘Canes, to stay ‘within their bubble’.
That change is because of the differences between Level 2 and Level 3 alert precautions that are enforced between Dunedin and the Auckland region.
crowds not allowed at Forsyth-Barr Stadium on Saturday, played at a closed venue
play is not permitted at all at Eden Park. Teams cannot even train, so the Blues would be at a disadvantage to the visiting Crusaders [who could train outside of Auckland L2 restrictions]
— Super Rugby (@SuperRugbyNZ) August 14, 2020
In fact, the differences are so wide that Eden Park was used as a community Covid-19 testing facility on Friday – completely the opposite of what fans had expected.
This week has seen the recurrence, the second wave that the government was so fearful of. It coincides with a rugby game, and for the majority, the natural processions are that ‘sport comes in second place to public health’. Yes, most agree yet, those who anticipated a HUGE match in Auckland, now feel quite disappointed.
Covid-19 recurrence spoils Blues v Crusaders finale
Not stopping at the interruption to the Blues v Crusaders game, the rugby community overall is upset by the increased alert levels. Differing restrictions on the Highlanders clash extend to both community rugby and the operation of sport. In Auckland vs the remainder of the country, the challenges are difficult to say the least.
In an NZR media release, it states ‘it follows the Government’s latest COVID-19 announcement that Auckland will remain at Level 3 for 12 days while the rest of the country will remain at Level 2 for the same period.
For rugby across New Zealand, this means the following:
The Blues-Crusaders match scheduled for Sunday 16 August in Auckland now cannot take place
Kick-off time for the Highlanders-Hurricanes match has been moved forward from 7.05pm to 3.05pm
All community rugby activity in the Auckland region, including the playing of games, training, and workshops, will be put on hold until further notice. This applies to all North Harbour Rugby Union, Auckland Rugby Union, Counties Manukau Rugby Union * clubs, festivals, tournaments, and schools.
Community rugby in the rest of the country can take place under Level 2 guidelines. Provincial Unions are working with their clubs and schools to ensure health and safety measures are in place for players and spectators and will make decisions on a localized basis in the best interests of their communities.
So with the confidence of New Zealand’s fight against the pandemic ‘all but destroyed’ one where the days, weeks, and months up until now without new cases, rugby will need to adapt. That includes national representative teams too;
A Black Ferns camp for players from the lower North Island and South Island which was due to take place in Christchurch from Sunday has been cancelled.
As it widens, from the smallest cluster to a concern nationally, fans must understand and react as a part of the ‘team of five million’. That behaviour got the county through the initial trauma of the Coronavirus pandemic. Now, the second wave of Covid-19 has spoiled the Blues v Crusaders game.
It has to be respected that sport, for all its worth, often takes a backstep to the national good. And on this occasion, one game out of 40 has been spoiled. If only others could be so lucky.
“Main photo credit”
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