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New Zealand’s North v South rugby showpiece postponed

A general view of Sky Stadium on March 23, 2020 in Wellington, New Zealand (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

New Zealand’s North v South rugby union fixture has been postponed until September 5, New Zealand Rugby has announced.

The eagerly anticipated clash was due to take place at Wellington’s Sky Stadium on August 29, however 14-Auckland based players were not cleared to travel to the nation’s capital on Monday (August 24), due to the recent Covid-19 outbreak. The two teams are comprised of the best players from the country’s North and South Islands.

The match has been revived this year after New Zealand’s home Test schedule was hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and was seen as an event that would generate much-needed revenue for the governing body. The last time the fixture was played was in 2012.

NZR is waiting for further government announcements on Covid-19 alert levels to decide if the match can be played at either Auckland’s Eden Park or Sky Stadium in Wellington.

If NZR cannot stage the North v South game on September 5, website Stuff.co.nz says the fixture will be shelved, potentially denying it a windfall of around NZ$1m (€552,939/$653,380).

The need to raise cash is pressing at NZR, which expects revenue losses of NZ$120m in the current fiscal year because of Covid-19, and will lose its main shirt sponsor, finance and insurance brand AIG, at the end of its current deal — worth about NZ$120m over five years — in 2021.

“We’re disappointed the game can’t go ahead at this stage next week, but we understand and respect the Government’s decision,” NZR general manager professional rugby and performance Chris Lendrum said.