COVID-19 hits sport: Uncertainty swirls around All Blacks, Blackcaps after lockdown announcement

  • Updated
  • 18/08/2021

New Zealand's return to COVID-19 Alert Level 4 could have a widespread impact on sport across the country and abroad.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Arden announced Auckland and the Coromandel Peninsula region would move into lockdown for seven days, with the rest of the country closed  for three days at least.

On Sunday, the All Blacks are scheduled to fly to Perth, where they'll play the third and final Bledisloe Cup test against Australia, and two Rugby Championship games against Argentina.

The team are also expected to remain in Western Australia to play two tests against South Africa, rather than return to New Zealand to play them, as originally planned.

But what impact New Zealand's return to Level 4 will have on the border exemption granted to enter the state and the squad's ability to assemble in Auckland is still unclear. All players are currently on a family break, until their departure.

Chief executive Mark Robinson says NZ Rugby is "keeping a watching brief on the situation".

"We will be guided by Government travel guidelines and any potential border restrictions in Australia, while working closely with SANZAAR and Rugby Australia in coming days to understand what the impact is on our plans," states Robinson.

The Blackcaps depart for their tour of Bangladesh and Pakistan on Monday, but NZ Cricket is confident all players will be able to gather from the regions and leave on their charter flight as planned.

Checks by an on-site security expert in the coming weeks will determine whether the Pakistan leg proceeds, due to the growing unrest north of the border, with the Taliban sweeping to power in Afghanistan.

While most of New Zealand's Paralympians have already left for Tokyo, a group - including swimming star Sophie Pascoe - remain in the country and are understood to be already self-isolating.

NZ Rugby says all three of of its domestic competitions - the National Provincial Championship, Farah Palmer Cup and Heartland Championship - will be impacted in some way. 

In this weekend's round, North Harbour are currently scheduled to play Southland at North Harbour Stadium on Friday, as are their Hibiscus female counterparts against Northland women.

The expected NPC debut of former NZ Warriors league star Roger Tuivasa-Sheck for Auckland against Bay of Plenty at Eden Park on Saturday will also be affected and NZR is working with the unions around available options.

"The health and safety of our people is paramount, and will guide our decisions," says NZR general manager community rugby Steve Lancaster.

"Clearly, we may need to reschedule a number of matches, so we will consult our affected provincial unions and go from there."

NZ Football has postponed league games - including Western Springs v Auckland City and Hamilton Wanderers v Bay Olympic - until further notice.

Auckland Rugby League has done the same with its scheduled club games this weekend, with Auckland Rugby expected to follow suit.

The women's National Basketball League has been officially suspended. Week two was scheduled to begin on Thursday.

A further announcement on week three fixtures will be made once further updates are received from the Government later this week.

"It goes without saying that everyone across the Sal's NBL is supportive of the New Zealand Government's decision to go hard and go early in this latest battle against COVID-19," says league general manager Justin Nelson.

"As a league, we have shown throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, that the health and safety of our players, coaches, officials, staff and fans is our No. 1 priority, as is the health and safety of the community.

"During week one of competition, we had eight teams, along with a number of officials and staff, travel to Auckland from locations around New Zealand.

"As per the instructions provided tonight from the Government, we have advised everyone who has travelled, as well as those located across Auckland, to monitor for symptoms and follow all advice provided by the Health Department."

This weekend's college sport in the Auckland and Coromandel regions is expected to be cancelled, while the rest of the country will depend on whether the lockdown beyond those regions is extended.