Crowds are expected to flock to Auckland and Dunedin with a combined total of over 60 000 fans anticipated for the opening round of Vodacom Super Rugby Aotearoa.
In a significant boost for New Zealand Rugby and its franchises, the country’s government this week announced that large crowds were once again permitted now that New Zealand had dropped to Covid-19 alert level 1.
This meant that Super Rugby Aotearoa would be the first professional competition in the world to welcome back fans en masse.
NZR chief executive Mark Robinson paid tribute to the combined efforts of New Zealand’s public to allow the country to drop its alert level.
‘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,’ Robinson said. ‘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.’
The domestic competition will begin on Saturday when the Highlanders host the Chiefs with a crowd of over 20,000 anticipated. Kick off is at 9.05am (South African time).
‘Unreal! That’s music to my ears that we’ll have crowds, especially that Zoo, you can’t go past that Zoo,’ Highlanders flyhalf Josh Ioane remarked.
On Sunday, All Black Beauden Barrett will make his much-anticipated debut for the Blues at fullback against his former side the Hurricanes. Kick off is at 5.35am (South African time).
Barrett said he is looking forward to playing in front of a big crowd after not taking the field since the All Blacks bronze medal Rugby World Cup playoff against Wales in November.
‘If we get that number on Sunday [35,000+] that’s fantastic and it’s even better that we are playing afternoon rugby,’ Barrett said. ‘I think the product should be better for it as well so lets hope the lungs hang in there and the game is a competitive one.’
Photo: Getty Images