Super Rugby: Kiwi teams poised to move to Queenstown bubble to keep season on track

The New Zealand-based Super Rugby sides are poised to make a dramatic shift to a Queenstown to keep the upcoming season alive in the face of the Omicron variant of Covid -19, Stuff understands.

When approached by Stuff on Friday afternoon, Queenstown Lakes District Council mayor Jim Boult wouldn’t confirm the development, but said: “If it was the case I would be delighted and the teams would be welcome.”

It is unclear at this stage if all the games will be played in Queenstown, or the teams will fly in and out to their home grounds. Under the current Red settings for Covid-19, crowds would be limited no matter where the games are played.

New Zealand Rugby has been approached for comment.

Queenstown has the accommodation capacity and facilities to host the teams, and was in the running to welcome Rugby Championship teams in 2020 before the tournament was controversially shifted to Australia at late notice.

The resort town has suffered several further setbacks since then, with the Highlanders-Rebels game in Super Rugby Trans Tasman cancelled last year, while the Highlanders recently announced that the pre-season game against Moana Pasifika on February 11 had also fallen by the wayside.

As a result, a Queenstown bubble for Super Rugby Pacific would represent a significant boost for Queenstown and would bring a buzz to the entire region.

Although New Zealand-based sides – the Blues, Crusaders, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Highlanders and Moana Pasifika – are almost resigned to Omicron getting into their camps at some point this year, NZ Rugby is determined for the season to go ahead with as few disruptions as possible.

NZ Rugby head of competitions Cameron Good said last week that he was “confident” the current Super Rugby Pacific draw would go ahead, despite the challenges posed by Omicron within Aotearoa and at the border.

“I guess the way we're looking at it is that [the games against Australia’s sides] is three months away,” he said. “If we’ve learnt anything over the last two years it’s that a lot changes in a short space of time.