Super rugby returns in New Zealand with fans in attendance

Thousands of rugby fans celebrated their return to stadiums as New Zealand held its first top-level rugby match after the coronavirus lockdown. This week, the authorities said there were no active cases left in the country.

More than 15,000 rugby fans packed into the stands at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin southern New Zealand on Saturday after the isolated country reopened its sports venues and lifted the country’s lockdown had halted public gatherings since March.

With authorities in the city of Dunedin confident of their victory over the coronavirus, fans were not required to wear masks or follow social distancing rules.

"It's massive," said the country's sports minister, Grant Robertson, pointing out that the Saturday match was "the world's first" professional rugby game since pandemic spread across the globe.

He added that attending the game was "a payoff for all the hard work of 5 million New Zealanders."

Rugby Union is New Zealand's dominant sport, with the national men's team, the "All Blacks" and the national women's team, the "Black Ferns" the world's number two and one respectively.

The New Zealand Rugby Union introduced Super Rugby Aetearoa replacing the traditional Investec Super Rugby which involves teams from New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina which was cancelled due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The new structured tournament will see New Zealand team playing themselves in local derbies involving the defending champions Crusaders, Chiefs, Blues, Hurricanes and Highlanders.

On Saturday the Highlander hosted the Chiefs in a closely fought contest with the Highlanders edging the Chiefs 28-27 in front of a sold-out Forsyth Barr Stadium.

On Sunday Blues will host the Hurricanes at Eden Park 

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