Super Rugby Pacific on tenterhooks as New Zealand teams navigate COVID-19 outbreaks

While a couple of pre-season matches were affected by COVID-19, no Australian-based matches in Super Rugby Pacific so far — touch wood, cross fingers, etc — have been impacted directly by the ongoing pandemic.

West Australian border issues forced a few date changes and venue swaps over the first five rounds, but other than that, the game has just carried on since it got underway in mid-February.

That sadly hasn’t been the case in New Zealand, where six matches have been postponed so far, and only one of those since replayed. Another match will be played next Tuesday.

That leaves four still to be played, and New Zealand Rugby will be desperately hoping that number doesn’t grow for the pure and simple fact that time is rapidly running out for postponed games to be rescheduled.

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When the draw for the new competition was first released late last year, we were going to be done with the conference concept, with the Australian teams facing the New Zealand teams from Round 1, and with local derbies and trans-Tasman games integrated from the Start.

It really was going to be a new chapter for Super Rugby down in this part of the rugby world.

But COVID-19 decided it wanted another crack at us, and as outbreaks in Sydney and Melbourne rapidly took hold, borders were just as rapidly re-closed. The trans-Tasman travel bubble was paused back in July and then extended several times, resulting in a revised draw just a few days before Christmas.

And with that revision came a return to a divided competition, where the Australian and New Zealand teams would stay on their own side of the Tasman for the first nine rounds of the season.

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