The Chiefs’ final home match of 2021 against the Melbourne Rebels on Sunday has been moved from Hamilton to Sydney because of the extension of Melbourne’s Covid-19 lockdown.
New Zealand Rugby, Sanzaar and the Chiefs released a statement on Thursday confirming the move for the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman fixture.
Instead of hosting the Rebels at Hamilton’s FMG Stadium Waikato, the match will be played at Leichhardt Oval from 3pm (AEST).
The Sydney venue, which also hosted the Highlanders’ 42-27 win over the Rebels last Sunday, is home to NRL club Wests Tigers. That fixture was moved from Queenstown to Sydney last week.
The Chiefs, after losing 40-34 to the Queensland Reds in Townsville last Saturday, are still in Australia and moved to Sydney on Wednesday but won’t get to host the Rebels this weekend in Hamilton as scheduled.
The match had already been pushed back 24 hours but the extension of Melbourne’s lockdown for another seven days, from Thursday night, ensured there was too much uncertainty to stage it in Hamilton.
Chiefs chief executive Michael Collins said they were disappointed they couldn’t host the Rebels.
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“We were hopeful through extending the kick-off out 24 hours it would allow us to have the best opportunity to play at home if the travel pause lifted. However, we have learned the unpredictable nature of the Covid-19 pandemic brings uncertainty, and we need to be adaptable,” Collins said in a statement.
“We feel for our fans and everyone who has been involved in preparing for the match this Sunday and we are absolutely devastated we are unable to deliver the match as scheduled. Fortunately, we are able to still play the Rebels in Sydney and know our Chiefs team will be wanting to deliver a performance our Chiefs whānau will be proud of.”
The Chiefs could be in Australia for three weeks. Their final Trans-Tasman match next weekend is against the Waratahs at Sydney’s Brookvale Oval on June 12.
Meanwhile, the travel pause between New Zealand and Victoria is still in place after Melbourne’s Covid-19 outbreak, but it will be reviewed on Thursday.
The Rebels left Melbourne before the city went into lockdown last Thursday and have been based in Sydney since last week.
Their final Trans-Tasman fixture is scheduled to be against the Crusaders on June 12 in Melbourne, but that, too, is likely to be moved to Sydney, or staged in Christchurch.