Rugby: Super Rugby Aotearoa to kick off in June

David Havili.
David Havili. Photo credit: Getty

The revamped Super Rugby Aotearoa competition will begin in June.

NZ Rugby's confirmation has come after the Government announced the country will move to COVID-19 Alert Level 2, starting Thursday.

The domestic form of Super Rugby, involving the Blues, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Crusaders and Highlanders, will start on Saturday, June 13, which allows players four weeks to adequately prepare.

Teams are cleared to return to the practice field for pre-season training from Monday, May 18.

The five NZ Super Rugby franchises will play each other home and away over 10 weeks, with two matches every weekend at 5:05pm on Saturdays and 3:05pm Sundays. Each side will have two byes.

Matches will be played in closed stadiums, until Government advises an approach for managing mass gatherings in controlled venues that will allow fans to return.

The venues confirmed to date are Hamilton's FMG Stadium, Wellington's Sky Stadium and  Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium, with Christchurch and Auckland yet to be announced.

In the opening weekend, the Highlanders will play the Chiefs in Dunedin on Saturday, June 13, with the Blues hosting the Hurricanes the following day, when star signing Beauden Barrett will  debut for his new team against his old outfit.

The defending champion Crusaders will have a bye in the opening weekend.

NZ Rugby stresses that stringent health and safety procedures will be put in place, including daily symptom and temperature checks for players, team management and other officials involved in the competition, as well as stringent hygiene, cleaning and contact tracing practices.

"A major factor will be ensuring we control who enters the team bubbles and that we have necessary measures in place to mitigate against any risk to the health of all team members, as well as the health of their families and the wider community," says NZR medical manager Karen Rasmussen. 

"Team members will be asked to minimise their contacts outside of the team environment and their family bubbles."

The teams will also fly in and out on match days by charter flights, with the earlier kick-off times allowing teams time to return to their home bases after the games.

A September return for the Mitre 10 Cup competition was also confirmed, with a schedule to be announced shortly.

NZR is still looking at options for the Farah Palmer Cup and the ensuing Black Ferns tests.

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