New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson is adamant trans-Tasman club rugby will go ahead in 2022 despite the growing threat of the Omicron virus.
A decision on the future of the competition will be arrived at “in the next few days” according to Robinson, who spoke to media at Wellington alongside the code’s end-of-year board meetings.
“We would like to get to a situation where we can replicate as closely as possible the original Pacific format,” he said.
“There’s a few moving parts to that and a few different contingencies being worked through … we’re down to having to make a call pretty soon.
“The scenarios that we’re talking about the moment all have an element of trans-Tasman (matches).”
Last month, Australian and Kiwi rugby chiefs released the Super Rugby Pacific draw – including expansion franchises Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika – with a kick-off date of February 18.
Jacinda Ardern’s government then threw a spanner in the works with its border reopening plan, which requires all arrivals to self-isolate for seven days on arrival.
The NZ government has repeatedly declined the idea of exemptions for sport but Robinson is clinging to the prospect, saying there was a “huge amount of work going on with the government” to get the competition happening.
COVID-19 has already forced many changes to southern hemisphere rugby, including the last two Rugby Championships.
In 2020, the Super Rugby season was suspended before being split into domestic competitions.
In 2021, the South African and Argentinian sides went their own way and domestic competitions concluded with a mini trans-Tasman season.
Given the NZ government’s hyper-vigilance in the face of COVID-19 and its fear of the Omicron variant, trans-Tasman sport could be a long way from returning.
COVID-19 has also smashed NZ Rugby’s finances, which wore a $NZ34.6 million ($A32.7 million) loss last year.
Robinson pre-empted another loss, saying “we’d like to think we get pretty close to breakeven”.
The former All Black is maintaining a pursuit of private equity investment from US firm Silver Lake, though his efforts have been stymied by the players’ association.
The selling of a minority stake in the All Blacks is highly contentious among players and fans.