The 2020 Super Rugby season has been suspended for the foreseeable future, effective after the weekend’s Round 7 fixtures. That means the South African Super Rugby derby between the Sharks and the Stormers, scheduled for Saturday afternoon, will go ahead.
The Southern Hemisphere competition joins a swathe of major sporting events to be put on hold due to the spread of the global CO-VID19 pandemic.
It comes in the wake of New Zealand announcing a mandatory 14 days in quarantine for anyone entering the country from Sunday 15 March.
Round seven fixtures largely went ahead as normal over the weekend, with a New Zealand derby between the Chiefs and Hurricanes in Waikato, before the Blues hosted the Lions at Auckland’s Eden Park.
Two matches then took place in Brisbane, Australia, with the Reds hosting South Africa’s Bulls after the Sunwolves took on the Crusaders, with the Japanese franchise already confined to playing their ‘home’ games on Australian soil.
The Jaguares’ home fixture against the Highlanders will be played behind closed doors on Saturday night at Estadio José Amalfitani in Buenos Aires.
In a statement released on Saturday, the tournament’s governing body said:
Following a SANZAAR Executive Committee (EXCO) teleconference in response to the announcement by the New Zealand Government that all returning travellers will have to self-isolate for 14 days, including Super Rugby players, SANZAAR believes it has no option but to suspend the 2020 Super Rugby tournament at the conclusion of this weekend’s matches for the foreseeable future.
Five New Zealand teams play in the 15-team Super Rugby tournament and SANZAAR completely understands the directive issued by the New Zealand Government given concerns globally over the COVID-19 virus and the primary aim to reduce exposure and spread of the virus.
SANZAR CEO Andy Marinos stated, “the safety and welfare of the public, our players and other stakeholders is paramount and as previously stated we were always going to abide by government and health authority instructions on the issue of COVID-19 containment.”
“We are extremely disappointed for the players, our fans, broadcasters and partners but given the complexity of our competition structure, and the multiple geographies that we cover, we have no other option but to align with such directives. We also believe it is time for all those players currently overseas to return home and to be with their families.”
“Our priority is, therefore, to ensure our players are within their homes territories from the end of this weekend. SANZAAR will also remain engaged with its stakeholders and will continue to explore avenues to see if we can keep the rugby product alive within our core markets, with the possibility to be in a position to resume the tournament if at all possible in future weeks. We have currently played seven rounds out of the 18 in the normal regular season”.
SANZAAR will issue further information on Super Rugby 2020 and any potential rescheduled fixtures in the days ahead.
Sporting events have been postponed or cancelled around the world amid the spread of the virus, with sporting bodies and national governments forced into action unprecedented in the professional era.
Friday saw showpieces including the US Masters Golf and the London Marathon put on hold, joining professional European football, the ATP tennis tour and the Six Nations Rugby Championship as the sporting calendar was stripped bare.