Live rugby to return mid-June

New Zealand Rugby has confirmed the domestic form of Vodacom Super Rugby will kick off on 13 June following the announcement that the country will move to Covid-19 alert level two on Thursday.

The domestic competition will be called Super Rugby Aotearoa, involving the Blues, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Crusaders and Highlanders, allowing players four weeks to adequately prepare with contact training.

The competition will see the five Super Rugby clubs playing each other home and away over 10 weeks, with two matches every weekend at 5:05pm on Saturdays and 3:05pm on Sundays (New Zealand time).

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Matches will be played in closed stadiums until government advises an approach to managing mass gatherings in controlled venues that will allow fans to return.

The schedule for the competition has also been announced. In the opening weekend, the Highlanders will play the Chiefs in Dunedin on Saturday, 13 June, with the Blues playing the Hurricanes in Auckland the following day.

NZR chief executive Mark Robinson said he was delighted for fans that they would have top-quality rugby on their screens in just over a month.

‘The thought of five world-class Kiwi teams battling it out in 20 matches over 10 weeks should put a smile back on the faces of many people. I know our players are excited and I’m sure rugby fans will be as well.’

Meanwhile, as a result of the confirmation of the start of Super Rugby Aotearoa, NZR has now confirmed a start time for this year’s Mitre 10 Cup.

‘With the support of the provincial unions, we have been able to schedule a full 14 team Mitre 10 Cup Premiership and Championship competition, with kick-off on 11 September,’ said Robinson.

An amended Mitre 10 Cup draw will be released in due course.