The Super Rugby Aotearoa match between the Blues and Crusaders at Eden Park in Auckland has been cancelled after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed Auckland will remain at alert Level 3 until August 26.
Tomorrow’s Highlanders-Hurricanes match at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium will go ahead however, with the game to be played under Level 2 restrictions, in front of no crowd and at an earlier time of 3.05pm.
The outbreak of community transmission of Covid-19 in South Auckland plunged the Super City into Level 3 lockdown on Wednesday, while the rest of the country will remain at Level 2 for a further 12 days.
As a result of the Level 3 restrictions, the Blues and Crusaders clash cannot be played, with the match considered a draw and both teams awarded two points.
A cancellation dents the Blues’ financial position, after admitting earlier in the week they may have gone into insolvency had crowds had not been allowed at games.
Cancelling the game will also cost the Blues and New Zealand Rugby up to $1 million in lost revenue, as the Herald understands the 43,236 tickets sold for Sunday’s match generates gate takings between $800,000 and $1 million, with net profit thought to be around the $450,000 to $500,000 range.
Blues fans will also miss the chance to see Dan Carter in a Blues jersey in 2020, with Carter hoping to have made his debut against his former team.
“Ten weeks ago we never thought we’d even have a competition, let alone one with fans,” said Blues CEO Andrew Hore.
“But instead we got nine weeks of incredible rugby, with three amazing home games and massive crowds. While this news is disappointing, we need to take a step back and be grateful for what we got, what it meant to our players, our sponsors and, most importantly, to our fans.”
The Blues will be in touch with all ticketholders directly in the coming days in regards to refunds.
Saturday’s fixture between the Highlanders and Hurricanes in Dunedin will still go ahead at the earlier kickoff time, but will be played under restrictions of no more than 100 people at the venue.
Under NZ Rugby’s Level 2 protocols agreed with the Government, teams must fly in and out of cities hosting matches on the same day to limit public interaction. As a result, the Hurricanes and several match officials will take a charter flight to Dunedin tomorrow morning and return to Wellington on Saturday evening.
In the interests of public safety both the Highlanders and stadium operator DVML have taken the decision to significantly restrict access to family members of the team only. 15,000 tickets were purchased but sales were halted following the entry into Level 2.
“We are naturally disappointed that at alert Level 2 none of our passionate supporters will be able to attend,” Highlanders CEO Roger Clark said.
Hurricanes CEO Avan Lee said: “It’s great that the game will go ahead. We have prepared for a number of scenarios this week but health and safety for staff and players will continue to be our focus.”
NZR General Manager Professional Rugby & Performance Chris Lendrum was pleased they there will be one final game in Super Rugby Aotearoa.
“On the flipside, we’re obviously disappointed that the Blues-Crusaders match is off, but we all understand and support the Government’s decision around this.”
The extension of Level 3 lockdown in Auckland also puts doubt over the North v South clash, scheduled for August 29 at Eden Park. The Farah Palmer Cup is also scheduled to start next week with North Harbour and Counties Manukau due to host games in Auckland, with NZR promising a “further update in due course” on the fixtures.
All community rugby activity in the Auckland region will be put on hold until further notice, while all community rugby in the rest of the country can take place under Level 2 guidelines. 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.