Crusaders shift home opener in bid to have supporters in stadium

The Round 2 Super Rugby Aotearoa match between the Crusaders and the Hurricanes has been moved from Saturday to Sunday in the hope that coronavirus restrictions will be lifted to allow a crowd at Christchurch Stadium.

In response to a small cluster of COVID-19 cases, the New Zealand government imposed a seven-day Level 3 lockdown on Auckland on Sunday with the rest of the country raised to Level 2, which rules out crowds at sporting events.

The lockdown will be lifted at 6am local time on Sunday if the government is satisfied it has had the desired impact.

The Chiefs' home opener against the Highlanders in Hamilton will be played as scheduled on Friday evening without a crowd but the Crusaders-Hurricanes clash has been moved to Sunday afternoon.

"Nobody wants to play in an empty stadium and the opportunity to move the match 24 hours seems like the right thing to do for the Crusaders, their fans, and their players," said New Zealand Rugby's Chris Lendrum.

The snap lockdown has had a significant impact on sporting events with next weekend's opening races in the America's Cup sailing challenge postponed until March 10.

The Twenty20 cricket series between New Zealand and Australia has also been disrupted with one match moved from Auckland to Wellington. All three remaining matches in the series will be played behind closed doors.

New Zealand has been among the most successful countries in the world at containing the new coronavirus and international rugby and cricket matches have been played in front of big crowds over the last eight months.