Late Adjustments for the new Sky Super Rugby Aupiki Tournament

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New Zealand Rugby has been forced into alterations for the Aupiki, due to start on 5 March.With Covid restrictions still causing major difficulties, the competition has been condensed and the venues adjusted.

All players will move into a 2½ week bubble in Taupō, where there are facilities for all four teams to operate separately, hotels and practice areas. They will be tested regularly. Matches will take place at two local grounds, Owen Delany Park and FMG Stadium Waikato, as double-headers. Spectators will not be permitted.

NZR discussed the matter closely with all affected parties, to reduce inconvenience and hardship. They were determined to see the project through, but have had to condense the original plans more than they would have wished. Sky’s cameras will be present at all matches.

At once it endangers the value of the tournament which was set up precisely to offer elite players more high-class rugby, a lack that has been criticised widely, especially after the Black Ferns’ tour last autumn. The hope must be that the new conditions still amount to a real challenge for the players, and a chance for them to display their talents to a discerning audience.

And longer term…

This is disturbing news for the RWC. It comes at the exact moment NZR was celebrating ‘200 days to the World Cup!’ What an irony that this was the very day on which the UK government announced an end to Covid restrictions.

It must be admitted that the late changes come as a considerable shock, though the authorities were obviously aware of safety problems; it takes time to come up with sensible alternative arrangements.


The four teams, Blues, Chiefs Manawa, Hurricanes and Matatu, are the first professional NZ players below national level.

The underlying idea is to offer an intermediate stage between the amateur Farah Palmer Cup and the Black Ferns. They split three in North Island, one in South, based at Christchurch. Hopes of establishing a second team in the south were abandoned through lack of player depth there.

All four head coaches are male.

So as we wish the players well for the Aupiki, fingers must be firmly crossed for the safe passage of the RWC too. It draws ever closer.

Revised Draw (kick off times to be confirmed):

Saturday 5 March 
Blues v Waitomo Chiefs Manawa 
Matatū v Hurricanes Poua

Thursday 10 March 
Hurricanes Poua v Blues 
Waitomo Chiefs Manawa v Matatū

Tuesday 15 March 
Blues v Matatū 
Waitomo Chiefs Manawa v Hurricanes Poua

Sunday 20 March