Super Rugby Pacific officials have been forced to revise its inaugural draw over the latest Covid-19 interruptions.
Changes to New Zealand border plans were announced during the week following rises in virus case numbers and concerns over the spread of the Omicron variant quickly complicated the tournament kicking off with its set schedule that was released on November 14.
The New Zealand government has declared its border would remain closed to non-citizens until the start of May amid a renewed vaccination campaign in the country.
The cautious reopening looks almost certain to ensure that the early rounds will involve a split of the six New Zealand-based teams on one side of the draw and Australian-based teams on the other side.
Moana Pasifika and Fijian Drua, from the onset of their inclusion in the new competition, conceded immediately to live and play their home fixtures in New Zealand and Australia respectively against a backdrop of ongoing travel complications.
The Polynesian franchise was set to travel to Canberra to face the ACT Brumbies in its season opener while the Fijians were flying to Auckland in a clash with the Blues.
Neither match will be able to go ahead under the New Zealand government’s border restrictions.
The opening round was slated to begin from February 18 but that could be pushed back weeks while the super round of all 12 teams playing across three days in Melbourne is at risk of being scrapped.
“We’re going to have to adjust it because of the Covid impacts,” Rugby Australia chief executive Andy Marinos told reporters this week.
“We’re just waiting for further confirmation out of New Zealand in terms of understanding of what those requirements would be around their players moving in and out of Australia, as much as we are working with the guys up in Perth in terms of what are the movements out of Western Australia.”
It is the third consecutive season that Super Rugby has had to rearrange its competitions that even included calling off the 2020 season involving South African teams at the outbreak of the pandemic.
Both Rugby Australia and New Zealand Rugby hope a revised schedule can be released before the Christmas break in just over a week.