WELLINGTON: The Auckland Blues have sent their players home ahead of a lockdown due to a new outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the region but are hopeful their sold-out final Super Rugby Aotearoa match on Sunday can still go ahead.
New Zealand's government said late on Tuesday that four new cases had emerged in Auckland after 102 days without community transmission and the country's largest city would go into lockdown until Friday.
The Blues are scheduled to host the Canterbury Crusaders at Eden Park on Sunday, but have sent their players home and will distribute training equipment to continue preparations.
"We are busy this morning readying our facility for shutdown as per level 3 requirements, cleaning gym equipment which will be dispersed around players so they can continue to train and prepare for our final game," the Blues said in a statement.
"NZR is in close and constant dialogue with Government and we will pass on more information when we have it.
"We are working through all the numerous scenarios and will probably be in a better position to comment with more clarity tomorrow (Thursday)."
The lockdown rules limit the number of people allowed to gather in the same place to 10 in the wider Auckland region and 100 in the rest of the country, which could place in jeopardy both of the weekend's games if the restrictions extend past Friday.
The Otago Highlanders are due to host the Wellington Hurricanes in Dunedin on Saturday.
The Blues said on Monday that all 43,236 available tickets had been sold for the final game of the domestic championship, which was organised after the wider Super Rugby competition was shut down in March.
The Crusaders wrapped up the title with a game to spare on Sunday.
A North-South match, which is being looked at as an All Blacks trial game, is scheduled for Eden Park for Aug. 29.
Organisers had hoped to base the annual Rugby Championship competition involving Australia, South Africa and Argentina in New Zealand later in the year.
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)