Super Rugby Aotearoa to start up a domestic rugby competition

By Micah Thompson

New Zealand rugby is laying off half its full-time staff and facing a loss of $120 million in revenue due to COVID-19. 

However, Super Rugby Aotearoa involving the Blues, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Crusaders and Highlanders will start on June 13, allowing players a month to prepare with contact training.

What does this all mean for Māori and for rugby?

Tapatahi spoke with former Black Fern and current New Zealand Rugby board member Farah Palmer who says, “It's wonderful!”

Palmer says that everyone is excited to both watch and play rugby, also mentioning that 30 percent of the Super Rugby player base are Māori or Pasifika which makes it good to get them out on the field.

With all of the restrictions due to COVID-19, New Zealand Rugby has decided that because there are great teams, they will involve the teams in a domestic competition.

Palmer says this means that there is a lot happening in partnership with Sports New Zealand and the government to ensure the safety of everyone involved including players, coaches and management.

“This will also mean playing in empty stadiums for the time being."

Playing in an empty stadium may have an effect on the players but Palmer hopes players will have the inner drive to want to play.

“I think the players themselves are just excited to get out there and we’ve also got thousands of supporters watching on television.”

She says the New Zealand Rugby Board is also looking at trying to get international games and competitions going.

“We are talking to our neighbours across the Tasman to see if we can do something with them so that might involve some Super Rugby engagement deal or international games for the All Blacks and potentially for the Black Ferns who are preparing for the Rugby World Cup next year.”

A lot of Māori tournaments are at the grassroots level, Palmer says they're working with the government to see what can be done to get these teams back on the field as well.