New Zealand withdraw from fixtures against Australia and South Africa due to Covid travel restrictions
New Zealand were due to travel to Australia for the final Bledisloe Cup fixture on August 28, but have now pulled out; All Blacks will also not host South Africa in Tests due to take place on September 25 and October 2 due to Covid regulations
Last Updated: 20/08/21 11:19am
New Zealand has stopped its men's team from travelling to Australia for the third Bledisloe match and cancelled two Tests hosting world champions South Africa due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.
New Zealand Rugby (NZR) said in a statement it had "made the decision not to send the All Blacks to Perth this weekend for the third Bledisloe Cup Test" scheduled to take place on August 28.
Matches hosting South Africa in Dunedin on September 25 and in Auckland at Eden Park on October 2 have also been cancelled, NZR said.
- Toutai Kefu out of hospital after violent attack
- Springboks' Lions stars return for Argentina
- England Women to play New Zealand twice in autumn series
"We share the disappointment of our fans, players and other stakeholders, particularly those in Dunedin where the sold-out 100th Test between the All Blacks and South Africa was shaping up as a very special occasion," NZR CEO Mark Robinson said.
"We understand the importance of putting the health and safety of New Zealanders first."
"Without complete certainty on the team's next movements around the Rugby Championship we felt it was prudent for the team to stay put in New Zealand until [governing body] SANZAAR have announced the full tournament schedule," Robinson added.
"Once the team leaves our shores, they currently can't return until November 23 post their northern tour, so given the uncertainty, it makes sense to pause and get more clarity on these fixtures."
Asked for his reaction to NZR's decision, Australia head coach Dave Rennie said: "Angry - I think it's disappointing how it has been communicated. Our boys all found out through social media.
"I thought New Zealand Rugby didn't even have the respect to consult RA (Rugby Australia) about their decision, so that's hugely disappointing."
Rennie's disappointment was exacerbated by the fact Australia travelled to New Zealand in October, had to quarantine and then played two Bledisloe matches despite the coronavirus pandemic still ongoing.
"I feel like there's only one of us doing what's in the best interest of the game," Rennie added. "Last year we went to New Zealand to ensure the games were played for the benefit of both countries.
"We quarantined in Wellington for two weeks. The expectation was we made a commitment to go there this year, they'd come here and they haven't honoured. It tells you more about them than us I reckon."
NZR added that the country's women's side will no longer host Australia for matches in Christchurch on September 26 and at Eden Park on October 2.
"The decision follows advice from Government that the Springboks and Wallaroos would not be able to enter New Zealand to play the matches due to Covid-19 travel restrictions," NZR said in its statement.
New Zealand's Covid-19 outbreak widened beyond its largest city Auckland on Friday as new infections were discovered in the capital Wellington and case numbers jumped to 31.
The findings meant Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will most likely extend a nationwide lockdown that she announced this week to try to curb the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.
South Africa ready to host rest of Rugby Championship
South Africa Rugby has confirmed it has offered to host the remainder of the Rugby Championship, pending government approval, as competition organisers scramble to find new venues for cancelled matches in Australasia.
Media reports on Friday suggested the competition could be shifted to the northern hemisphere after New Zealand's decision to pull out of hosting South Africa and Australia.
"We have advised SANZAAR that we are ready and able to host the remainder of the competition in South Africa, pending our government's approval," SA Rugby chief executive officer Jurie Roux said in a statement on Friday.
"We are now well-versed in turning on rugby Tests within the prevailing Covid restrictions and have the venues and accommodation necessary. We just need the go-ahead."
South Africa recently hosted the British and Irish Lions for an eight-match tour, including three Tests, that was not without incident as both teams had players and staff test positive for the virus.
The Springboks are currently hosting Argentina in the opening two matches of their Rugby Championship campaign, with the second of those fixtures on Saturday.
The teams were then due to share a chartered flight to Australia to start that leg of the competition, but for the moment it is destination unknown.
"SANZAAR is considering a range of options, including the hosting of the event in South Africa, and will make an announcement once all logistical, commercial and broadcasting considerations have been taken into account," the SA Rugby statement added.