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COVID outbreak clouds NZ Super Rugby games

A growing COVID-19 outbreak among New Zealand’s Super Rugby teams is threatening further disruption to the Pacific competition.

The Otago Highlanders cancelled training on Tuesday, meaning Friday’s home match against Moana Pasifika is highly likely to be postponed for player welfare reasons.

“Due to a growing number of COVID cases across players and staff we have taken the precaution of cancelling today’s training and media session,” a Highlanders spokesman said.

Moana Pasifika’s first season in Super Rugby is growing increasingly untenable, with the expansion side having played only one out of a potential four matches due to COVID-19 cases on their playing roster and among their opponents.

The Auckland-based team, established to give representation to the Pacific island nations, already face tight turnarounds between fixtures in late March and early April after a schedule rejig.

“It’s been challenging for a lot of teams and people during this time,” Moana Pasifika playmaker and former Wallaby Christian Lealiifano said.

In a bid to avoid COVID-19 problems, New Zealand Rugby forced the country’s six teams to relocate to a hub in the remote South Island resort of Queenstown and play at empty stadiums for the opening weeks of Super Rugby Pacific.

The move backfired, with Moana Pasifika hit by COVID-19 and forced to isolate at their Queenstown hotel before further cases emerged at the Hurricanes and the Chiefs.

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