As all five New Zealand Super Rugby franchises were delighted to hear that professional rugby could restart in 2020, players and fans we equally so, and are becoming fired-up for the June 13 scheduled kick-off.
The fixture list was released immediately after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed the much-awaited transition to Alert Level 2. On Wednesday, May 13 at 11:59 pm, the changed status will make organized sport allowed.
In fact, it will be embraced widely. If not as wide as the big smile of Hurricanes and All Black Ardie Savea, then certainly as enthusiastically. If not just for the sake of playing a game. One that has been hungered for – as have other winter sports. So the desire to be ready for when ‘rugby returns’ is strong.
NZ Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson said in an NZR media release, he was delighted for fans that they would have top-quality rugby on their screens in just over a month. “The thought of five world-class Kiwi teams battling it out in 20 matches over 10 weeks should put a smile back on the faces of many people.
“I know our players are excited and I’m sure rugby fans will be as well.”
— Super Rugby (@SuperRugbyNZ) May 8, 2020
Super Rugby franchises set to fire-up in June
The competition will see the five Super Rugby franchises playing each other home and away over 10 weeks, with two matches each weekend. One game will be played at 5.05pm on Saturdays, and the second played at 3.05pm on Sundays.
In the opening weekend, the Highlanders will play the Chiefs in Dunedin on Saturday 13 June, with the Blues playing the Hurricanes in Auckland the following day.
Matches will be played in closed stadiums until Government advises an approach to managing ‘mass gatherings’ in controlled venues that will allow fans to return.
Fans enthusiastic for return of winter code
Attending a rugby match might be an unfortunate impossibility, so watching your favourite Super Rugby franchise is the next best thing.
Dancing for joy, the players and all stakeholders must first set about restarting involvement by the five franchises in a controlled and safe manner. NZR would take the Government’s lead on when it was safe for rugby to return, and now it was critical the sport did everything to mitigate the further spread of COVID-19.
“Medical and operational staff across NZR, the Players’ Association (NZRPA) and the clubs have been working together to ensure we have detailed plans in place to protect the health and safety of everyone involved.”
With time spent in preparations that resemble a narrow preseason, being ready for June 13th. That opening weekend will surely take the interest of rugby fans beyond New Zealand’s borders. While they remain closed to International visitors, the very next best thing – and some might say the NZ local derby games hold few equals – is a domestic competition.
This may too be close to All Black selection criteria. All Blacks coach Ian Foster will closely watch each battle, seeing the elite players compete on a weekly basis. All Blacks captain Sam Cane will lead the Chiefs, as each Super Rugby franchise captain aims to direct his side to be ‘first past the post’. The highest number of wins will earn the right to be called the best team in Aotearoa.
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