COVID outbreaks in the Blues, Highlanders, and Crusaders squads have forced New Zealand Rugby (NZR) to amend the DHL Super Rugby Pacific Round 5 schedule.
Moana Pasifika will now play the Gallagher Chiefs at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland at 7.05pm on Saturday night in what will be the only New Zealand-based DHL Super Rugby Pacific match this weekend.
No matches have been cancelled and NZR remains confident the five postponed matches this season can be rescheduled later in the competition. The original Round 5 schedule would have seen the Highlanders host Moana Pasifika in Dunedin, the Blues play the Crusaders in Christchurch, and the Hurricanes play the Gallagher Chiefs in Wellington.
NZR Head of Tournaments and Competitions Cameron Good said several factors had factored into the decision to schedule the Moana Pasifika v Gallagher Chiefs match.
“Like many businesses around New Zealand we continue to deal with the disruptions of COVID on our people, and the health of the Blues, Highlanders and Crusaders players and staff was the key consideration in withdrawing those teams from this weekend’s matches.
“With three teams remaining we had to look at what was the best outcome for the competition and a key consideration was to ensure Moana Pasifika got back on the field again after having three matches postponed through the opening month of the season, which is exciting for the club and their fans. This change also allows Moana Pasifika to catch up on their previously postponed Round 2 match against the Chiefs.
“This has been a tough call on the Hurricanes who had initially been scheduled to play the Chiefs and I would like to acknowledge the Hurricanes for their understanding and cooperation in putting the competition first”
NZR was confident five postponed DHL Super Rugby Pacific matches could be rescheduled, Good said.
“We are looking at the schedule and believe there are opportunities to play those matches without major disruption to the draw and will announce details in due course.”
The postponed matches requiring rescheduling are Hurricanes v Moana Pasifika from Round 4, Highlanders v Moana Pasifika from Round 5, Hurricanes v Gallagher Chiefs from Round 5, and Crusaders v Blues from Round 5. Moana Pasifika’s Round 1 match against the Blues at Mt Smart Stadium has already been rescheduled for Tuesday 29 March in Round 7.
Good also noted that the Government’s border announcement was a welcome boost to DHL Super Rugby Pacific.
“The easing of border restrictions allows New Zealand Rugby to plan with more certainty toward teams traveling into New Zealand later in the season, both for DHL Super Rugby Pacific and for our international schedules.
“We are looking forward to our Super Rugby Pacific teams heading across the Tasman in April to play the Australian teams, notably for the Super Round in Melbourne over ANZAC weekend, and also welcoming the Australian teams to New Zealand in May.”
PASIFIKA (1-15): Ezekiel Lindenmuth, Luteru Tolai, Sekope Kepu (c), Mike McKee, Sam Slade, Sione Tu’ipulotu, Solomone Funaki, Henry Time-Stowers, Jonathan Taumateine, Christian Leali’ifano, Neria Foma’i, Danny Toala, Levi Aumua Tima Fainga’anuku, William Havili
RESERVES: Samiuela Moli, Taukiha’amea Kolomatagi, Joe Apikotoa, Alex McRobbie, Josh Kaifa, Ereatara Enari, Lincoln McClutchie, Fine Inis.
SOURCE: MOANA PASIFIKA/PACNEWS