Super Rugby season suspended
THE 2020 Super Rugby season will be suspended from Sunday night, but SANZAAR officials are still hoping a finals series can be staged in June.
The coronavirus crisis forced organisers to make the unprecedented call late on Saturday night, releasing a statement saying: "SANZAAR believes it has no option but to suspend the 2020 Super Rugby tournament at the conclusion of this weekend's matches for the foreseeable future."
Sunday's Brumbies vs Waratahs clash in Canberra is set to be the final match of the year.
However, some within SANZAAR hope that if the global pandemic can subside in coming months, a finals series with the top eight as it stands after this round's matches could be played in June as it is scheduled.
"The safety and welfare of the public, our players and other stakeholders is paramount and as previously stated we were always going to abide by government and health authority instructions on the issue of COVID-19 containment," SANZAAR chief executive Andy Marinos said.
"We are extremely disappointed for the players, our fans, broadcasters and partners but given the complexity of our competition structure, and the multiple geographies that we cover, we have no other option but to align with such directives. We also believe it is time for all those players currently overseas to return home and to be with their families.
"Our priority is, therefore, to ensure our players are within their homes territories from the end of this weekend. SANZAAR will also remain engaged with its stakeholders and will continue to explore avenues to see if we can keep the rugby product alive within our core markets, with the possibility to be in a position to resume the tournament if at all possible in future weeks.
"We have currently played seven rounds out of the 18 in the normal regular season".
The move was set in motion on Saturday when the one-day cricket series between Australia and New Zealand was cancelled after the New Zealand Government announced that all inbound travellers will be subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine period.
The three-match cricket series was abandoned as the Kiwis raced home before the regulations come into effect at midnight Sunday.
Super Rugby - with five Kiwi teams - has the added logistical hurdle of multiple participating nations and necessary stopover flights.
Unlike the NRL and AFL, Super Rugby does not have the option of postponing the entire competition, given the packed rugby calendar and Test matches due to start in June.
New Zealand officials confirmed on Saturday night that ill fast bowler Lockie Ferguson, who has been in isolation this week, tested negative to coronavirus.