March 14, 2020 / 7:09 AM / a month ago

Super Rugby set for coronavirus suspension

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Super Rugby will be put on hold after this weekend’s matches in the wake of New Zealand announcing that travellers entering the country must self-isolate for 14 days due to fears over the coronavirus outbreak.

FILE PHOTO: The ultrastructural morphology exhibited by the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China, is seen in an illustration released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. January 29, 2020. Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM/CDC/Handout via REUTERS/Files

SANZAAR, who run the Southern Hemisphere club competition, said on Saturday it “has no option but to suspend the 2020 Super Rugby tournament” for the foreseeable future after the ACT Brumbies host the New South Wales Waratahs on Sunday.

In a statement that followed the decree from the New Zealand government, SANZAAR said it would not be feasible to carry on with the competition, with five teams from the country participating.

The penultimate match of round seven between the Jaguares and Otago Highlanders in Buenos Aires on Saturday was later cancelled to allow the visiting players to return home to New Zealand.

Chief executive Andy Marinos said SANZAAR had not taken the decision lightly.

“After consulting widely with key stakeholders, the SANZAAR Executive Committee has taken the necessary step to cancel the scheduled fixture with the players’ and team management health and welfare paramount,” he said in a statement.

“As stated previously, while disappointed to be in this position our priority is to ensure the players currently overseas return home healthy and safely to be with their families.”

The suspension will leave the trans-continental provincial competition, involving teams from Argentina, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa, in limbo after only seven of 18 rounds following this weekend.

“We are extremely disappointed for the players, our fans, broadcasters and partners but given the complexity of our competition structure... we have no other option,” Marinos added.

“SANZAAR will also remain engaged with its stakeholders and will continue to explore avenues to see if we can keep the rugby product alive within our core markets, with the possibility to be in a position to resume the tournament, if at all possible, in future weeks.”

The statement said organisers hoped to devise a plan for the remaining fixtures that would be communicated in the coming days.

Reporting By Nick Said and Nick Mulvenney in Sydney; editing by Tony Lawrence and Clare Fallon

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