New Zealand have entered stage two of their lockdown measures and rugby players can now start returning to the training pitch. There is a month before the Super Rugby Aotearoa begins which gives the players that time to get fit and ready.
Super Rugby was called off after seven rounds in mid-March 2020 due to COVID-19. It is almost certain that Super Rugby will not return to the competition in was this year as all three countries – Australia, South Africa and New Zealand – have spoken about creating their own local versions of the competition.
Super Rugby Aotearoa will feature all five New Zealand franchises in the Auckland Blues, Canterbury Crusaders, Otago Highlanders, Wellington Hurricanes and Waikato Chiefs. Over 10 rounds each team will play the other on a home and away basis with fixtures set to take place at 17:05 on Saturdays and 15:05 on Sundays.
New Zealand Rugby Union (NZR) Chief Executive Mark Robinson stated that he was delighted that top-quality rugby was returning. He further stated that rugby would always need to take its guidance from government and will need to mitigate the spread of the virus.
Players, coaches and everyone else involved with day to day rugby will undergo regular tests. Symptom and temperature checks for all will take place daily while very stringent measures will be in place with regards to cleaning and hygiene of the players.
Players will fly in and out for away games on the same day by charter flights while games will be played earlier than usual. Normally kick off in New Zealand takes place a bit later for TV audiences around the world but to allow for flights they will be a bit earlier.