8 Jun 2020

Fans allowed in stands for Super Rugby Aotearoa

5:40 pm on 8 June 2020

Super Rugby Aotearoa will be the first professional rugby competition in the world to have fans return en-masse in the Covid-19 era when the competition kicks off.

Kayne Hammington of the Highlanders, during the Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Sharks, held at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand.

The Highlanders will host the first game back against the Chiefs on Saturday. Photo: Photosport

There will be no limit on crowd numbers when the Highlanders play the Chiefs at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on Saturday and the Blues host the Hurricanes at Eden Park the following day.

Fans will be able to buy tickets to the opening two matches from today after the Government confirmed New Zealand will move to Alert Level 1 at midnight tonight lifting all restrictions on mass gatherings including at stadiums.

New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson said the Government announcement was fantastic news for rugby.

"We're incredibly proud, and grateful, to be the first professional sports competition in the world to be in a position to have our teams play in front of their fans again. It's going to be a very special and unique competition and it's fitting that New Zealanders now have a chance to be part of it," Robinson said.

The move to Level 1 and the return of crowds meant kick off times would change for the competition - now 7.05pm for Saturday games and 3.35pm for Sunday games.

"With the return of community sport, we wanted to give our many fans involved in Saturday sport time to finish up their games, get ready to head out, and then across town to our venues. We're excited to be able to provide some daytime Sunday rugby," NZR Head of Professional Rugby Chris Lendrum said.

NZR and all five Investec Super Rugby clubs would be encouraging fans to use the QR codes displayed at match venues to enable effective contact tracing, Lendrum said.

Highlanders chief executive Roger Clark said the club was "buzzing" at the opportunity to host the first professional rugby crowd since the Covid-19 global pandemic shut down the sporting world.

"The world will be watching, and we will be ready to put on a show. Our players, coaches and staff have been working overtime to get Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa ready and to now be able to share the competition with our members and our fans will be a very special occasion."

The move to Level 1 means players can now prepare normally for matches, rather than fly in and out on match day.