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NZR boss gives update on Super Rugby Pacific as COVID threatens schedule

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16th December, 2021
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New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson is adamant Super Rugby Pacific will go ahead in 2022 despite the growing threat of the Omicron virus.

A decision on the future of the competition will be arrived at “in the next few days” according to Robinson, who spoke to media at Wellington alongside the code’s end-of-year board meetings.

“We would like to get to a situation where we can replicate as closely as possible the original Pacific format,” he said.

“There’s a few moving parts to that and a few different contingencies being worked through … we’re down to having to make a call pretty soon.

“The scenarios that we’re talking about the moment all have an element of trans-Tasman (matches).”

Last month, Australian and Kiwi rugby chiefs released the Super Rugby Pacific draw – including expansion franchises Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika – with a kick-off date of February 18.

Jacinda Ardern’s government then threw a spanner in the works with its border reopening plan, which requires all arrivals to self-isolate for seven days on arrival.

The NZ government has repeatedly declined the idea of exemptions for sport but Robinson is clinging to the prospect, saying there was a “huge amount of work going on with the government” to get the competition happening.

COVID-19 has already forced many changes to southern hemisphere rugby, including the last two Rugby Championships.

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In 2020, the Super Rugby season was suspended before being split into domestic competitions.

In 2021, the South African and Argentinian sides went their own way and domestic competitions concluded with a mini trans-Tasman season.

Given the NZ government’s hyper-vigilance in the face of COVID-19 and its fear of the Omicron variant, trans-Tasman sport could be a long way from returning.

COVID-19 has also smashed NZ Rugby’s finances, which wore a $NZ34.6 million ($A32.7 million) loss last year.

Robinson pre-empted another loss, saying “we’d like to think we get pretty close to breakeven”.

The former All Black is maintaining a pursuit of private equity investment from US firm Silver Lake, though his efforts have been stymied by the players’ association.

The selling of a minority stake in the All Blacks is highly contentious among players and fans.

© AAP

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