Coronavirus: New Zealand teams set to play in Super Rugby Aotearoa beginning next month

Omnisport

A Super Rugby competition involving New Zealand's five teams could begin as early as next month, it was announced on Thursday.

The New Zealand Government cleared professional rugby to resume when the nation shifts to coronavirus alert level two, with a decision due on Monday.

Super Rugby Aotearoa will involve the country's five teams – the Blues, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Crusaders and Highlanders.

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The five teams will play each other home and away behind closed doors over 10 weeks.

"For our fans, our players and everyone involved in Investec Super Rugby, we are thrilled that the sports minister has given the green light for professional sport to resume at level two," New Zealand Rugby (NZR) chief executive Mark Robinson said in a statement.

"Both netball and rugby have been working closely with government agencies on what training and playing at level two could look like, and we are incredibly grateful for their support."

Robinson added: "We're delighted for our fans that in a best-case scenario we will have top-quality rugby back on our screens next month.

"I know the players would prefer to be playing in front of our fans, but the health and safety of Kiwis must come first."

Players are set to be given three to four weeks to prepare before a season commences.

SANZAAR chief executive Andy Marinos welcomed the move, with Super Rugby having been suspended in March and facing major challenges due to travel restrictions around the world.

"We have known for some time that once the green light is given to recommence playing [in any of our territories] that a revised Super Rugby competition format would have to be implemented," he said.

"This will mean a strong domestic focus in each territory given the travel, border and government restrictions that we will have to adhere to.

"Given today's announcement by the New Zealand Government, SANZAAR will now in conjunction with NZR move to the implementation of the revised Super Rugby format that has been agreed upon by all SANZAAR partners and stakeholders.

"We will work with NZR around the possible start date that satisfies government requirements."

New Zealand has seen just 21 deaths from coronavirus, with more than 1,400 cases.

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