Provincial rugby will re-start on Friday, September 17 but the Counties Manukau rugby community will have to wait a little longer to see the PIC Steelers and possibly Counties Power Heat return to play.
New Zealand Rugby confirmed the Bunnings Warehouse NPC, Farah Palmer Cup (FPC) and Heartland Championship, outside of Auckland, will recommence next week with the rest of the country at COVID Alert Level 2.
NZR is making plans for Auckland, North Harbour and Counties Manukau to play catch-up matches later in the season, subject to them moving to Alert Level 2. The Auckland region remains at COVID Alert Level 4 until at least 11.59PM on Tuesday, September 14.
“Obviously there are some real challenges for provinces like ours who are still in Alert Level 4,” CMRFU CEO Aaron Lawton said.
“But we remain hopeful that Auckland will be able to move down the Alert Levels in the coming weeks and that we will be able get back on the grass as soon as possible and make up the matches we will miss in the coming weeks.
“It is disappointing that we won’t be out there next week with the non-Auckland sides but we are working hard alongside NZR to ensure we won’t be left behind.”
NZR will release a revised draw for the Bunnings Warehouse NPC, FPC and Heartland Championship in the coming days.
Lawton added that at this stage it was likely the Counties Power Heat would be unable to play their round six game against Waikato due to the current Auckland lockdown and that they would then have to wait on results for games that do go ahead to determine if they make the finals.
“It’s really disappointing for our Counties Power Heat girls. They’ve worked really hard throughout the season and the current lockdown means their chances of making the finals are effectively out of their hands,” Lawton said.
“We will really just have to wait and see what happens with other results in the Farah Palmer Cup now and hope the Counties Power Heat get another chance to take the field again this season.”
NZR General Manager Community Rugby Steve Lancaster said it was pleasing to be able to provide some certainty for players, fans and stakeholders.
“It’s great to be in a position where our teams and fans can look forward to some rugby again,” he said.
“Although we’d love to get everyone back out there this weekend, player safety must be our number one priority, so we have built in a week for our teams to prepare before they return to the field. And importantly, with play resuming next weekend we are planning to play the full schedule of matches in all three competitions, with later completion dates for each.
“We know it’s a tough situation for everyone in Auckland, but we are taking a positive view that the Alert Levels will go down and we are making contingency plans for Auckland, North Harbour and Counties Manukau to re-join the competitions with minimal disruption when they are able. We thank all three of our Auckland-based unions for their understanding and support in resuming these competitions while they remain at Alert Level 4.”
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