Super Rugby Aoteroa: Over 50,000 fans expected to attend opening round
Super Rugby Aotearoa kicks off with Highlanders vs Chiefs on June 13 and Blues vs Hurricanes on June 14, live on Sky Sports
Last Updated: 09/06/20 9:31am
The Highlanders are hoping 20,000 fans will attend Saturday's Super Rugby Aoteroa match against the Chiefs in Dunedin.
It will be the first major rugby match to be played in front of fans since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, with no limitation on crowd size.
Meanwhile, the Blues expect as many as 35,000 to attend Sunday's game against the Hurricanes because of the large number of All Blacks involved.
The decision of the New Zealand government to drop all restrictions on the size of public gatherings means social distancing is no longer required and sports can take place in full stadiums.
New Zealand has no current cases of Covid-19 and has not recorded a new infection in 18 days.
Blues chief executive Andrew Hore said 20,000 tickets to Sundays had been sold in the 24 hours since the government announced the move to alert level 1, which imposes no limits on fans at sports events.
"Tickets are really whipping out the door which is fantastic and I think it's a sign of the fact that people want to go and have some form of social experience," said Hore.
"I also helps the industry a lot and the industries that feed off our industry. So it's a big boost for the place.
"We're thinking in excess of 35,000 which will be an amazing result and will make for a fantastic atmosphere and a massive lift for the players of both sides."
The first appearance for the Blues of All Blacks fly-half Beauden Barrett is a major draw card. Children will be admitted free and adult tickets are being sold for as little as $13 (£6.70) which includes public transport to and from the match.
More than 12,000 tickets have been sold to the Highlanders' match against Warren Gatland's Chiefs. They often draw large walk-up crowds, mostly of students in the university city of Dunedin.
The Highlanders' enclosed stadium can hold up to 25,000 for Super Rugby matches and at least 20,000 are expected on Saturday.