The North v South rugby match has been postponed by a week.
As first reported by the Herald yesterday, the postponement became the preferred contingency plan when it was revealed that the Auckland-based players would not get an exemption to leave the region.
The game was thrown into jeopardy as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak in Auckland last week, and the resulting sudden switch to alert level 3 in Auckland, and level 2 in the rest of the country.
The North and South squads were due to assemble in Wellington on Monday to prepare for the match, with contingency plans underway to play the game at Sky Stadium in Wellington on Saturday 29 August.
However, New Zealand Rugby General Manager Professional Rugby & Performance Chris Lendrum said today that the 14 Auckland-based players in the North squad, as well as five support staff, had not been granted an exemption to leave Auckland.
"We're disappointed that the game can't go ahead at this stage next week, but we understand and respect the Government's decision. We're no different from hundreds of other New Zealanders who have also had their requests for exemption turned down, so we have to abide by the decision," Lendrum said.
The game is doubling as an All Blacks trial and its purpose will be limited should the Blues contingent not be involved.
The teams won't assemble next week in Wellington as planned and the game will now be postponed to Saturday September 5.
Depending on further Government announcements on Covid-19 alert levels, the match will be played at either Auckland's Eden Park or Sky Stadium in Wellington.
Fans who have bought tickets to the match, originally scheduled for Eden Park on 29 August, are encouraged to hold onto their tickets until further notice.
"We remain solution-focussed, will look to get the game played a week later and remain excited at the prospect of these two teams going head to head," Lendrum said.
A decision on whether or not the game will be played in Auckland or Wellington on September 5, and other details on the game, will be made following the Government's next announcement on Monday.
If Auckland returns to level 2 on Thursday, that will be enough to allow both teams to assemble in the city on Monday, August 31 and prepare for the match on September 5, but if Wellington returns to level 1 while Auckland is still at level 2, then that would make a shift of venue likely, as it would allow fans to attend, and revenue to be gained.