The Highlanders’ home Trans-Tasman game against the Rebels has been moved to Sydney due to an extension of the travel pause between Melbourne and New Zealand as a result of a Covid-19 outbreak in Victoria.
The Rebels were due to land in Queenstown, Otago, on Friday morning ahead of Sunday’s match against the Highlanders in the south-west of New Zealand’s South Island.
But the contest came under threat when it was confirmed that the Rebels were stuck in Melbourne due to a spike in Covid-19 cases in the greater Victoria region, which led to the New Zealand government denying them entry into their country.
Initially, the Melbourne-based Rebels had moved to Sydney on Wednesday in the hope of flying to New Zealand on Saturday, but due to the worsening outbreak in Victoria they were denied travel exemption from the Kiwi government. This ultimately forced the tournament organisers to move the game from Otago to Sydney.
Highlanders CEO Roger Clark said they were disappointed for the people of Queenstown, fans, and the wider region, but grateful that the match could still go ahead.
‘Our players and coaches were really looking forward to heading to Queenstown for what would have been a fantastic day and we share the disappointment of our fans that we won’t be able to make it this season.
‘Fortunately, the Rebels were able to move out of Melbourne and relocate to Sydney on Wednesday and we’re pleased to be able to play the match and chase the competition points,’ Clark said.
New Zealand Rugby general manager Chris Lendrum said the health and safety of players and fans remained the number-one priority for all parties.
‘We are pleased to be able to keep the competition going, but are working closely with Sanzaar, Rugby Australia and the Rebels to ensure all measures are in place to keep the Highlanders players, coaches, and management safe.’
All Rebels players and staff would be tested for Covid-19 before Sunday’s match. The Rebels are also continuing to check the locations of interest named by the Victoria state government and at this stage no team members have been to any of the locations listed.
Photo: Teaukura Moetaua/Getty Images