NZ’s North vs South set for empty stadium

New Zealand Rugby’s North vs South fixture scheduled for 5 September has suffered a further setback after the government extended the Covid-19 lockdown.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday that Auckland will remain under Covid-19 alert level 3 until this Sunday, while the rest of the country will stay at level 2 until 6 September.

This means that gatherings in Auckland are limited to 10 people, making it likely that the fixture – if it does get staged – will be played behind closed doors. It also means that New Zealand Rugby will be unable to go ahead with its contingency plan to move the fixture from Auckland to Wellington.

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New Zealand Rugby had already postponed the game – originally scheduled for 29 August – last week after it was unable to get permission for the 14 Auckland-based players to leave the city to prepare for the match. A spokesperson has said that an update on the fixture will be given on Tuesday.

NZ Rugby has already confirmed that the game will not be postponed beyond 5 September as they want to have all their top players available for the start of the Mitre 10 Cup on 11 September.

If the fixture is to go ahead, NZ Rugby can either again apply for exemptions allowing the players and support staff to leave Auckland or keep the players in Auckland with the expectation that the fixture will be played at an empty Eden Park next Saturday.