‘Respect and solidarity’: Rugby cancelled
THE Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Highlanders in Dunedin has been called off in the wake of the Christchurch shootings.
The match, which was to be played at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday night, will not go ahead, with both teams set to get two points after consultation with SANZAAR.
It is the first Super Rugby game to be called off since 2011, when a game between the Hurricanes and Crusaders was cancelled due to the Christchurch earthquake.
New Zealand Rugby's chief rugby officer, Nigel Cass, said the decision to cancel the match was made after urgent meetings on Saturday with both teams, venue management, police and community organisations involved in responses to Friday's terrorist attacks in Christchurch.
"There's no template for this," Cass told Martin Devlin on Newstalk ZB.
"I think all New Zealanders are shocked and saddened by what has happened, and in a rugby context we just wanted to make sure that we didn't knee-jerk to any particular course of action, we took the time to talk to the players and a bunch of people connected to Christchurch and made a considered decision,"
"After doing all that, we reached a point that the right decision - to show our complete respect with the victims of Christchurch and the absolute horror at what has happened - is to cancel the fixture."
Advice from police and venue management was that the game could go ahead, but Cass said that after some debate it was decided that the most respectful decision was to call the match off.
"We just wanted to do what was right in terms of showing respect and showing solidarity with the victims, and in that regard it's not straightforward," he said.
"There are merits in terms of standing up to the terrorism and playing, and showing appropriate respect at the game.
"One of the fundamental things here in respect to this game is you've got a Crusaders team who live and are neighbours and friends with victims. They've got their own families who were caught up in the tragedy yesterday in terms of lockdown at schools and so on, so for them, their personal emotions are massively raw.
"What we've tried to do is weigh up the benefits of playing or not, and the thing that has most guided us is the desire to do the most respectful thing in relation to the people of Christchurch."
Crusaders chief exceutive Colin Mainsbridge said the entire club community was in a state of shock.
"Yesterday's horrific attacks have left us all feeling stunned," he said.
"All other issues and considerations pale in significance. We will now regroup and make arrangements for the team to return home as soon as possible to be back in their community and with their families."
Highlanders CEO Roger Clark said they were working to communicate with ticket-holders and fans.
"This is always the biggest fixture on our match calendar and one which our fans look forward to, but when we think about the massive loss of life and absolute devastation that has been wreaked on people in Christchurch, we feel this is the right decision."
The Highlanders team has met today and all players have been advised to go home and be with their families. Ticket-holders to the game will get refunds over the next three weeks.
The Super Rugby encounter between the Hurricanes and the Chiefs went ahead on Friday night, but Hurricanes halfback TJ Perenara admitted it was hard to focus on the game after the awful scenes from Christchurch earlier in the day.
"Regardless of how that result went, that wouldn't have been the most important part of my day and I don't think anyone in this circle or in this country would say that this was the most important thing today, and that comes from a very competitive person who would do pretty much anything to win," Perenara told media after the match.
"My mind was on the game when I was in the game, but today was bigger than rugby."
The NRL clash between the Warriors and the Bulldogs at Mount Smart Stadium will still be played, with the Warriors giving away free tickets to the game.