Super Rugby Pacific teams to move to Queenstown
New Zealand Rugby has confirmed it will move all six New Zealand based Super Rugby Pacific sides to Queenstown for the next month and possibly more.
The NZR says the decision to move to Queenstown is to reduce the risk of Covid-19 sidelining any of the teams and provide the best chance of the inaugural Super Rugby Pacific season kicking off as scheduled in just over two weeks' time.
The NZR's Chris Lendrum says it would only take one Covid-19 case in a squad environment to shut down an entire squad for 10 days.
"The knock-on effect for the rest of the competition would be the postponement or cancellation of matches," Lendrum said.
"By moving the teams to a secure hub, we believe we have a good chance of preventing a Covid-19 infection, or close contact event, sidelining one of our teams for a prolonged period.
"The plan is currently for the teams to move to Queenstown early next week and remain in Queenstown for the opening three weeks of the competition."
The Blues, Hurricanes, Moana Pasifika, and Chiefs will fly to Queenstown on charter flights, while the Crusaders and Highlanders will bus south this weekend.
The squads will operate in separate bubbles with exclusive use of training facilities in the Queenstown area.
Day matches will be played in Queenstown at the Wakatipu Rugby Club whereas teams will bus to and from Rugby Park in Invercargill for any night matches.
Teams will stay in local hotels and will utilise Covid-19 protocols implemented by the All Blacks during last year's Northern Tour.
While players and staff will be able to undertake some outdoor activities during their stay, they will remain in their team bubbles at all times and will be subject to regular rapid antigen tests.
Lendrum stressed the move to Queenstown was seen as a temporary measure with plans in place for teams to return to their home bases and regular venues in March.
The timing of the move is based on recent modelling of likely infection rates.
"We are committed to bringing the teams home in early March regardless of the Covid-19 landscape.
"We realise there is a significant sacrifice in leaving whānau behind to play these matches and we are grateful for the cooperation of our players, the New Zealand Rugby Players' Association, Sky and also the Queenstown Lakes District Council who have accommodated our requests at short notice and provided facilities for our teams to train and play in the region."
Lendrum also said NZR was committed to playing Super Rugby Aupiki and is weighing the options on how to manage the tournament and four Super Rugby Aupiki squads, and would announce those details in due course.