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Good news for Blues but concern for Moana Pasifika in Super Rugby Omicron scare

Liam Napier, NZME,
Publish Date
Thu, 10 Feb 2022, 8:21PM
(Photo / Getty Images)
(Photo / Getty Images)

Good news for Blues but concern for Moana Pasifika in Super Rugby Omicron scare

Liam Napier, NZME,
Publish Date
Thu, 10 Feb 2022, 8:21PM

The Blues are in the clear but New Zealand Rugby continues to sweat on Covid test results for Moana Pasifika to determine whether Super Rugby Pacific's inaugural match next week will proceed as planned. 

NZ Rugby confirmed on Thursday the Blues player identified as a Covid close contact one day earlier had returned a negative PCR test result and continued to isolate in the team hotel following advice from health authorities. 

All other members of the Blues squad have returned negative Rapid Antigen Tests, allowing them to resume training in their Queenstown bubble. 

The situation is, however, not so straightforward for new entrants Moana Pasifika after a player who trained with their squad on Monday, but did not travel to Queenstown, was identified as a close contact. 

Moana Pasifika chief executive Pelenato Sakalia said while RAT results were negative, the team's PCR testing had been diverted to Dunedin and therefore delayed due to resources being committed to assessing the Queenstown outbreak. 

The upshot is Moana Pasifika's final preseason match against the Highlanders this Saturday now appears unlikely to go ahead, leaving their preparation further compromised before their round one match against the Blues. 

Until PCR test results and close contact definitions are determined by local authorities, the entire Moana Pasifika squad will continue to isolate in their team hotel. 

Last weekend Moana Pasifika lost their first preseason match 61-7 to the Chiefs at Mt Smart Stadium and with their opening competition match eight days away they desperately needed all possible game time. 

"Our RAT tests have all come back negative so the issue for Moana Pasifika is we're waiting for the full completion of the PCR tests," Sakalia said. "We briefed our guys fully on the delays. They understand. We'll just wait and see what comes out from the Southern District Health Board. 

"I really feel for the players. The preseason game this weekend was really important for them. This squad only assembled since January 5 so they haven't been going long. Each game, each week, meant a lot to them. The fact they're now going to face a situation where they can't play the game on Saturday I really feel for Aaron Mauger, Sekope Kepu and the team. 

"We've all mentally prepared ourselves for the disruption and uncertainties. Covid contingency planning is something we've been looking at since last year, but nothing quite prepares you for when you go into this period of uncertainty where you need to wait for the formal notification from the district health board as to the status of your team." 

NZR general manager of professional rugby Chris Lendrum expects Moana Pasifika's PCR test results to emerge within the next 24 hours but he admitted one positive case may require next week's opening match to be postponed or cancelled. 

"That was the risk we identified when we went to Queenstown that one positive case could knock out an entire team," Lendrum said. "It is circumstantially dependent, however. We're not the authorities that determine that. 

"We need the Southern DHB to come in and work through the process to define who are the close contacts in each case. That will then tell us how impacted this team is; who can get back to training when, and the impacts for round one of the competition in particular." 

Should Moana Pasifika's preseason match against the Highlanders be scrapped Lendrum indicated the other four teams would engage in a game of three halves to ensure they had a hit out. 

"At this stage, whilst not confirmed, there is a distinct possibility Moana Pasifika may not be able to participate in the final weekend of preseason and we'll adjust the scheduling if that's the scenario we have to work with. 

"We were always realistic about this scenario but we're used to dealing with the disruption so we'll get on with it. 

"We're preparing for the worst and anything beyond that will be a bonus." 

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