Rugby Champs in turmoil as All Blacks opt not to travel

The third Bledisloe Cup clash will not take place as planned, with New Zealand Rugby deciding against sending the All Blacks to Perth to face the Wallabies, while also confirming they will not host the Boks this year.

In another dramatic twist to the changes now needing to be made to the Rugby Championship schedule, New Zealand Rugby (NZR) confirmed the All Blacks’ two home Tests against South Africa will not be played in New Zealand.

“The decision follows advice from government that the Springboks would not be able to enter New Zealand to play the matches due to COVID-19 travel restrictions,” a statement read.

The All Blacks were scheduled to play South Africa at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on Saturday 25 September, and at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday 2 October.

NZR has also confirmed that, given the current uncertainty over the Rugby Championship schedule, it has made the decision not to send the All Blacks to Perth this weekend for the third Bledisloe Cup Test which was scheduled to be played at Optus Stadium on Saturday 28 August.

New Zealand Rugby CEO Mark Robinson said every effort had been made to keep the two Tests in New Zealand.

“We share the disappointment of our fans, players and other stakeholders, particularly those in Dunedin where the sold-out 100th Test between the All Blacks and South Africa was shaping up as a very special occasion.

“However, after discussions with government, it is clear that the Covid-19 travel restrictions meant there was no way of bringing the South African squads into New Zealand and we understand the importance of putting the health and safety of New Zealanders first.”

Sanzaar later released a statement of their own, expressing disappointment with the decision by NZR.

“Sanzaar is very disappointed that the New Zealand Rugby Union has made the decision not to travel to Perth at this time to play Australia for its second-round match [and third Bledisloe match]. However, Sanzaar and the other national unions will continue to work on when and where this match can be played as part of the overall rescheduling work being done. Sanzaar also recognises that this decision is incredibly disappointing for rugby fans in Perth.”

The other second-round match, South Africa versus Argentina, scheduled for Saturday 21 August in Port Elizabeth will take place as scheduled. Sanzaar will announce the details of the venues and dates of the remaining nine matches when appropriate and will not enter into speculation until then.

Speaking on the decision to not have the All Blacks travel to Perth this weekend, Robinson said:

“Without complete certainty on the team’s next movements around the Rugby Championship we felt it was prudent for the team to stay put in New Zealand until Sanzaar have announced the full tournament schedule.

“Once the team leaves our shores, they currently can’t return until November 23 post their Northern Tour, so given the uncertainty, it makes sense to pause and get more clarity on these fixtures.

“We remain 100 percent committed to playing in the entire Rugby Championship in 2021 and are working closely with Sanzaar to look at a range of options to reschedule these important matches.”

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Craig Lewis