Last Updated: 21/08/20 7:23am
The North-South match scheduled for Auckland’s Eden Park on August 29 has been postponed for one week because of a COVID-19 lockdown and restrictions preventing the teams from training together, New Zealand Rugby said on Friday.
The match, which serves partly as a trial for New Zealand All Blacks selection, is now scheduled to be played on September 5.
With Auckland currently under Level 3 lockdown, at which major sports events cannot take place, the match was to be moved to Wellington, which can stage major matches without fans. But the 14 Auckland-based players due to play in the match cannot travel outside of Auckland while the Level 3 restrictions remain.
The players sought exemptions to travel to Wellington but were denied.
New Zealand Rugby said on Friday that if Auckland moves to Level 2 or lower by September 5, the match will be played at Eden Park and if Wellington moves to Level 1, at which fans can attend, it will be played in Wellington.
“We’re disappointed that the game cant go ahead at this stage next week but we understand and respect the Government’s decision,” NZR spokesman Chris Lendrum said. “We’re no different from hundreds of other New Zealanders who have also had their requests for exemption turned down, so we have to abide by the decision.
“We know everyone wants the game to go ahead, the players and fans are all looking forward to it and we think it’ll be a real boost for the country during these unsettling times.”
The New Zealand government is due to make an announcement on future alert levels on Monday.
Sports resumed in New Zealand in June after a strict national lockdown, and restrictions were lifted during a period of more than 100 days when the country recorded no new cases of COVID-19. It meant big crowds were allowed at domestic Super Rugby matches, until a new coronavirus cluster emerged in Auckland earlier this month.
NZR ‘really confident’ Rugby Championship will go ahead
NZR are still “really confident” the Rugby Championship will be played later this year despite the disruption already experienced this season.
The country is the preferred host for the annual southern hemisphere competition also involving Argentina, Australia and defending champions South Africa, with the championship tentatively scheduled to run from November to December.
“Every day, every week, things change and fluctuate,” Lendrum said.
“There has always been risk around Bledisloe and Rugby Championship being played.
“Right now we remain really confident. We don’t have to make those decisions today, fortunately. We have time.”