Coronavirus: NZ-based Super Rugby competition given green light

Super Rugby could be back as early as next month, with New Zealand Rugby revealing a domestic competition is being worked on.

SANZAAR suspended the 2020 campaign last week, due to tough new travel restrictions introduced by the New Zealand, Australian and Argentinian governments to combat the spread of COVID-19.

But NZR chief executive Mark Robinson told Sky Sport that a reformatted, domestic-based competition has been given the green light by SANZAAR boss Andy Marinos and host broadcaster Sky TV.

Speaking to The Breakdown, Robinson said a new competition could start as soon as the Highlanders complete their two-week self-isolation period, albeit in front of empty stadiums.

"We're quite excited about what we're starting to develop with our Super clubs and Sky obviously heavily involved," Robinson said. "This is a process, which is quite complex and detailed. 

"We'd like to think, by the end of the week, we'd be in a position to share more detail, but it's obvious it will be around a domestic-shaped competition and we've got around 10-12 weeks to provide some rugby product for our fans."

Mark Robinson - NZR chief executive
Mark Robinson - NZR chief executive Photo credit: Photosport

Robinson confirmed he was involved in constant dialogue with all five New Zealand Super Rugby franchises, with all sides keen to provide a product for rugby-mad Kiwis. 

"We know people are going to be interested, because there are a lot of restrictions around what people can do at the moment. 

"We're very mindful of what our fans want at the moment. 

"This is a fresh opportunity, and we've got to take it and make something exciting out of it."

Meanwhile, the upcoming international programme is still scheduled as planned in July.

The All Blacks are set to welcome Scotland and Wales ahead of the Rugby Championship and Robinson said while the situation is "fluid", they are planning for tests to go ahead. 

"There have been no discussions with Wales or anyone else for that matter that they won't be going ahead, but we all know we're in a dynamic and rapidly changing environment."

He said the players' association was fully involved in all discussions, but at this stage, talks of pay cuts for players, should the international season be canned, were a little premature. 

Instead, the focus was on getting players back on the park as soon as possible.

"The key thing about rugby is that it can bring people together, it can inspire them, it can give them a release, and provide fun and excitement."