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Good News and Bad News for New Zealand Sports Following Government MIQ Announcement; Super Rugby Pacific when in doubt

Aaron Smith of the Highlanders at Super Rugby Aotearoa last year. Photo / photo sports

New Zealand’s Transtasman sports competitions have come under serious scrutiny following government border announcements for next year.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced on Wednesday that New Zealand citizens and residents returning from Australia would be allowed to move from April 17.

From February 13, fully vaccinated kiwis will be able to enter from all other countries, Hipkins said.

From the end of April, all other fully vaccinated travelers can travel to New Zealand without having to go to the MIQ.

With teams subject to the seven-day isolation regime, it will be virtually impossible for Super Rugby Pacific to begin its inaugural season unless it is based in a country.

The situation will be an immediate headache for New Zealand rugby as it prepares to start a new competition. In the second round of Super Rugby Pacific, all 12 teams will play double headers for three days in Melbourne from February 25th to 27th.

The Breakers and Wellington Phoenix face similar problems. The Warriors’ plans to play their first home game in two years at Mt Smart Stadium on June 18 are less affected. These three teams, all of which compete in Australia, have been largely based outside of New Zealand for the past two years.

Sports Secretary Grant Robertson indicated that sports teams would not be granted exemptions from isolation.

“Of course I want the super rugby competition to happen, but we always let the health advice guide us and that has been the case all along, there has been no shift in time,” said Robertson.

“The advice of the Ministry of Health was consistently not to shorten the isolation times.

“This is certainly one of the problems we are investigating. This frees up a considerable amount of MIQ storage space when it has to be used by sports teams.

“Sports teams could train while they are at the MIQ, so the difference between an MIQ and a bespoke arrangement is not that important.”

Sports Secretary Grant Robertson poses for a picture with onlookers from the zoo during the Super Rugby Aotearoa clash between the Highlanders and Chiefs last year.  Photo / photo sportsSports Secretary Grant Robertson poses for a picture with onlookers from the zoo during the Super Rugby Aotearoa clash between the Highlanders and Chiefs last year. Photo / photo sports

Chris Lendrum, general manager of NZ Rugby, acknowledged that the Super Rugby schedule for next year may need to be changed drastically.

“Like many other national sports organizations and companies, we have been waiting for some direction on the plan to reopen New Zealand’s borders,” Lendrum said in a statement.

“We are now digesting today’s government announcement and what it means for New Zealand rugby and our competitions in 2022. Today’s news has the potential to specifically affect the Super Rugby Pacific competition as it is set to begin on February 18th.

“We now need to learn more details from the government and continue to work on our existing contingency planning with key partners such as Rugby Australia, Sanzaar and our teams.”

Barring an unlikely government backlash, Super Rugby could be forced to return to their respective Aotearoa and Australian native competitions, which were used earlier this year with the new additions Moana Pasifika in New Zealand and the Fijian Drua in Australia.

Raelene Castle, General Manager of Sport New Zealand, said in a statement: “Sport NZ recognizes the challenges faced by franchises and national sports organizations competing in Transtasman competitions. We intend to work with them to determine the impact of the border restrictions on their teams and players and the next steps. “

The ability to bypass MIQ, however, will be welcome news for many New Zealand individual athletes, including UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya, Olympic finishers Michael Venus, Hayden Wilde, Tom Walsh, as well as surfers Billy Stairmand and Paige Hareb and golfers Ryan Fox who all endured great battles to return home amid the global pandemic.

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