15 Aug 2020

NZR 'totally comfortable' with a second Super Rugby Aotearoa season

10:36 am on 15 August 2020

New Zealand Rugby concedes another domestic competition is a very real possibility in 2021, with Super Rugby Aotearoa proving "it's very much viable".

General views during the Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa match, between the Blues and Hurricanes held at Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand.  14  June  2020       Photo: Brett Phibbs / www.photosport.nz

Eden Park was sold out for the Blues' opening Super Rugby Aotearoa match against the Hurricanes Photo: Photosport Ltd 2020

The competition will conclude in Dunedin this afternoon (Saturday), when the Highlanders play host to the Hurricanes in an empty Forsyth Barr Stadium due to Covid-19 level two restrictions.

The Highlanders are preparing for another Super Rugby Aotearoa season and the coronavirus outbreak in Auckland is making NZR lean the same way.

"We've been in a border restriction place now for nigh on five months so another five months takes you through to deep pre-season next year [so] you have to start looking at possibilities," NZR general manager professional rugby & performance Chris Lendrum said.

"Our strong desire is to have some form of cross-border regional competition operating in 2021, but Covid as always is a hurdle.

"The last 72 hours have just demonstrated again what a challenge that is for everybody here, with no end in sight.

"Is there a possibility that we have to domestic only alternative next year? Yea it's a possibility."

And Lendrum has "no doubt that this competition is viable".

"What we've seen over the last 10 weeks shows it's very much viable. The crowd and broadcast interest and engagement through media and social media it's been enormous. It's been a huge boost for rugby.

"I'm totally comfortable if we end up playing that again, it's just not out preference. But if we have to stand it up again, it'll be fantastic again."

Stephanie Te Ohaere-Fox  hold up the Farah Palmer cup to team mates after winning the Farah Palmer Cup Final rugby match, Canterbury v Auckland, Rugby Park, Christchurch, New Zealand, 26th October 2019.Copyright photo: John Davidson / www.photosport.nz

Canterbury celebrate winning the 2019 Farah Palmer Cp Photo: Photosport Ltd 2019

Of more pressing concern for New Zealand Rugby is the Farah Palmer Cup, which is due to start next weekend, when Auckland may still be under Covid-19 level three restrictions.

"We're just taking breath at the moment," Lendrum said.

"We've got FPC northern zone due to kick-off next weekend and we'll just work our way through that over the weekend and we'll update you as soon as we can."

Pushing the competition back a week is an option.

"That's one possibility we'll consider. We'll be doing what we can to make that competition work."

NZR will also assess whether the North-South match can still go ahead at Eden Park on August 29.

"There's clearly some uncertainty there. We just have to