The Super Rugby season is over. Well, at least it appears to be after officials said they had no option other than to suspend the competition after the New Zealand government imposed a 14-day quarantine period on Saturday.
The ACT Brumbies and NSW Waratahs will play what could be the last game of the year when they meet at Canberra Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Super Rugby bosses announced their decision at 10.45pm on Saturday night, saying they were disappointed but adamant it was the only way to deal with the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern effectively shut the country's borders by introducing travel restrictions.
The Brumbies and the Canberra Raiders were duo to play a Super Rugby-NRL doubleheader in Auckland next weekend. That has now been cancelled.
SANZAAR says it will issue more information in the coming days about potentially rescheduling fixtures as teams and fans come to grips with the news.
The ripples will be felt for months, with teams to lose gate revenues, members to potentially ask for refunds and sponsors to consider their investments.
The Brumbies are set to be one of the hardest-hit teams given their perilous financial state already.
They have averaged just 7200 people per game so far this season and the coronavirus affect on the Waratahs game - traditionally their biggest of the year - is set to leave a massive hole in their finances.
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Fans will be allowed to attend the Brumbies-Waratahs derby, but the initial hopes of attracting 15,000 are now all but scuppered.
However, there could be a surge in sport given it could be the last chance for fans to watch live rugby this season given the uncertain nature of the suspension.
"The safety and welfare of the public, our playersand other stakeholders is paramount and as previously stated we were always going to abide by government and health authority instructions on the issue of COVID-19 containment," said SANZAAR boss Andy Marinos.
"We are extremely disappointed for the players, our fans, broadcasters and partners butgiven the complexity of our competition structure, and the multiple geographies that we cover, we have no other option but to align with such directives.
"We also believe it is time for all those players currently overseas to return home and to be with their families.
"Our priority is, therefore, to ensure our players are within their homes territories from the end of this weekend. SANZAAR will also remain engaged with its stakeholders and will continue to explore avenues to see if we can keep the rugby product alive within our core markets, with the possibility to be in a position to resume the tournament if at all possible in future weeks."
One option could be for teams to play within their conferences, which would reduce travel between countries.
It would leave the Brumbies to play the Waratahs, Melbourne Rebels, Queensland Reds and Japan Sunwolves, who are already in Australia.
New Zealand and South African teams would do the same to ensure there is content for broadcasters and for fans.
But Super Rugby officials are waiting to determine the growing impact and how long travel bans will be in force. The Australian government has advised against public gatherings of more than 500 people, prompting Rugby Australia to announce all matches will be played at empty stadiums.
The NRL will do the same. NRL officials will host a press conference on Sunday morning to announce its decision about the competition's immediate future.
New Zealand Prime Minister Ardern said on Saturday anyone arriving in the country from midnight on Sunday would have to isolate themselves for 14 days. The travel restrictions would be reviewed in 16 days.
The Brumbies have already played one of their two allocated games in New Zealand this season, but they were scheduled to play the Blues in Auckland next week and the Wellington Hurricanes in Canberra on April 4.
They are also scheduled to play two games in South Africa - in Durban and Pretoria.
Brumbies captain Allan Alaalatoa hoped fans would get to Canberra Stadium on Sunday, the team vowing to leave a lasting impression.
"Playing in front of no one is going to be weird. Really weird," Alaalatoa said.
"To know that at our next home game might be at an empty stadium, it does give you a bit of extra motivation [this weekend]. The boys will definitely be looking to put on a good performance for everyone.
"This might be the last time fans can come out and see their boys play for a little while. Obviously it's always health first - taking care of your family and kids.
"But we know the Canberra fans will be hurting if they can't come to watch. We've had some great support ... we have to put in good performances to be proud of."
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