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Covid-19 outbreak hits Super Rugby Aotearoa finale

The sold-out Blues v Crusaders Super Rugby Aotearoa finale has been cancelled as Auckland battles a new spike in Covid-19 cases.

The New Zealand government announced today (Friday) that Auckland will remain in a Covid-19 alert level three lockdown for the next 12 days. Under the heightened alert, people are instructed to remain at home, other than for essential movements, and to adhere to physical distancing rules.

As a result, New Zealand Rugby said the Blues-Crusaders game, scheduled to be played at Auckland’s Eden Park on Sunday afternoon, cannot go ahead. The game will be declared a draw with both teams awarded two points each. The Crusaders were already awarded the Super Rugby Aotearoa title in front of their own fans in Christchurch last week.

Blues chief executive Andrew Hore said: “Ten weeks ago we never thought we’d even have a competition, let alone one with fans. But instead we got nine weeks of incredible rugby, with three amazing home games and massive crowds…While this news is disappointing, we need to take a step back and be grateful for what we got, what it meant to our players, our sponsors and, most importantly, to our fans.”

Sunday’s game was a 43,000 sell-out and the cancellation is expected to cost the teams hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost ticket sales.

The second-last match of the competition, between the Highlanders and Hurricanes in Dunedin on Saturday, will be played, but no fans will be allowed into the stadium. That region remains under alert level two, which means gatherings of more than 100 people are not allowed.

The Highlanders have sold 15,000 tickets for the game and will have to refund ticket buyers.

Super Rugby Aotearoa has provided a welcome cash boost to NZR which has been hit hard financially by Covid-19. In April, NZR reported a better-than-expected loss of NZ$7.37m ($4.82m/€4.08m) for the 2019 financial year, but said it is expecting a 70-per-cent drop in revenue this year due to Covid-19.