The New Zealand Herald

Super round out; bring on Oz

- Liam Napier

New Zealand Rugby has confirmed the “super round” of the inaugural transtasma­n competitio­n, scheduled to pit the five New Zealand and five Australian teams against each other over one weekend in one city next month, will be scrapped this season.

NZ Rugby welcomed the news on Tuesday that a transtasma­n travel bubble from April 19 will pave the way for the six-week Super Rugby crossover tournament to start as planned from May 14, one week after the Aotearoa competitio­n final.

The transtasma­n competitio­n was, however, scheduled to feature all teams based at one venue on the weekend of May 28.

NZR head of profession­al rugby Chris Lendrum confirmed that concept will be a casualty of Covid19, leaving some teams with an advantage of hosting one more home fixture than others.

“That’s one thing we’ve run out of runway to do this year with the uncertaint­y — it was too hard to contemplat­e basing ourselves all in one city,” Lendrum said. “It’s certainly a concept we want to explore in future when conditions around our competitio­n are more settled.”

In these financiall­y fraught times, home fixtures are highly sought-after. Who hosts the round three fixtures between the Brumbies and Blues, Hurricanes and Force, Rebels and Highlander­s, Reds and Chiefs, and Waratahs and Crusaders is yet to be determined.

“We’re going to have a scenario where some teams will have three home games and some teams will have two,” Lendrum said.

“Commercial­ly, we’re encouragin­g the clubs who are due to play each other that weekend to have a commercial discussion about how the proceeds of the game are shared, so trying to get some evenness through the competitio­n.”

Although the two-way bubble is welcome news for sport, tourism and families seeking to reunite, the Government has warned it comes with a flyer-beware hitch that travellers could be trapped in either country in the event of another outbreak.

NZ Rugby will watch with interest in the coming weeks and make contingenc­y planning for its teams should they be stuck in Australia.

“We’re hoping with the six-week tournament can go off without a hitch but we’ve learned enough over the last 12 months to know that it might not,” Lendrum said.

“We have to plan for eventualit­ies, for potential disruption. The beauty of the competitio­n start date, which is still over a month away, is we get to see the bubble open and learn a lot over the first few weeks.”

The prospect of 25 crossover matches will be a relief to New Zealand teams not enthused about the alternativ­e of running themselves into the ground with a third round of Super Rugby Aotearoa.

Squaring off against the five Australian teams will instead offer a taste of next year’s competitio­n which is expected to welcome Moana Pasifika and the Fiji Drua to form a new 12-team league.

“For us, this was always what we wanted,” Lendrum said.

“New Zealand teams haven’t played Australian teams for 12 months now.

“There’s two really strong Australian teams lurking on the other side in the Reds and Brumbies and our teams will be looking forward to testing themselves against them.

Quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand will also change the complexion of the Rugby Championsh­ip hosting.

Australia hosted last year’s revamped Tri Nations tournament, won by the All Blacks, after the Springboks pulled out at the 11th hour.

“When we come to talk to Sanzaar and our national union partners it’s going to be really helpful by opening up both sides of the Tasman.”

There’s two really strong Australian teams lurking on the other side in the Reds and Brumbies.

Chris Lendrum

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