South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina Rugby (SANZAAR) has announced that the final eight matches of this year’s Rugby Championship national team tournament will be staged in the Australian state of Queensland.
The decision to relocate all remaining matches to Queensland comes amid the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in parts of Australia and New Zealand. Queensland has been chosen after SANZAAR and the respective national unions agreed suitable travel, accommodation and quarantine arrangements as regulated by the state government.
The outstanding second-round match between Australia and New Zealand, which had been due to take place at Optus Stadium on August 28, will still be played at the Perth venue, with confirmation of the match date to be announced in the coming days.
The Australia-New Zealand match also forms part of the Bledisloe Cup tournament between the two nations. New Zealand had last week pulled out of the match due to COVID-19 uncertainties but it has now been confirmed that the fixture will go ahead, albeit at a later date.
The relocation of matches to Queensland means that no fixtures will be played in New South Wales (Sydney and Newcastle), Australian Capital Territory (Canberra) or New Zealand (Auckland and Dunedin) as initially scheduled. Ticket holders for these matches will be refunded.
The new schedule will see ‘double-header’ games played at CBUS Super Stadium, Gold Coast on September 12; Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane (pictured) on September 18; QLD Country Bank Stadium, Townsville on September 25; and CBUS Super Stadium again on October 2.
SANZAAR chief executive Brendan Morris said: “We thought last year was tough when we had to implement a Tri-Nations tournament in Australia with South Africa absent due to the pandemic, but the current disruption caused by the ‘delta variant’ of COVID-19 has seen government authorities tighten up border biosecurity measures substantially.
“This is totally understandable but after exploring several options, including moving the tournament to South Africa and even Europe, we now look forward with excitement to the remainder of the Rugby Championship in Queensland. Indeed, I am delighted on behalf of the SANZAAR stakeholders that we can now complete this world-class rugby tournament.
“We are very excited about this unique format and rugby experience as we look to deliver a month of ‘double-headers’ with the world’s best players in Queensland, something never done in international rugby before.”
South Africa played the first two matches of its Rugby Championship campaign against Argentina at Port Elizabeth’s Mandela Stadium. New Zealand beat Australia 57-22 at Auckland’s Eden Park in its opening game.
A limited number of fans are expected to attend the rescheduled matches in Queensland.