The Chiefs will host both the Blues and Crusaders in a game of three halves on Saturday, February 20 at Hautapu Sports in Cambridge.
The match, which is closed to public, will kick off at 12pm and televised coverage will be live on Sky Sport.
The Blues have been isolated at home with individual trainings while Auckland were in Level 3 lockdown which forced cancellation of their original pre-season game against the Crusaders. Both the Crusaders and Gallagher Chiefs offered to host the Blues, with a change of alert levels leading to agreed plans for a game of three halves based in the Waikato.
The Crusaders will now stick with their plan to fly north, however will take the field in Cambridge instead of the previously scheduled Eden Park. The first game of three halves in 2021 was played in Upper Hutt last Saturday with the Gallagher Chiefs, Blues and the Hurricanes taking part.
The pre-season match will serve as a welcome opportunity for all teams to test scenarios and combinations in a live fixture before the Sky Super Rugby Aotearoa Season kicks off next Friday, February 26.
There will be no tickets sold to the event as the match will be played under NZR Level 2 Operating Protocols due to the close proximity to Auckland and the need to take maximum precautions ahead of Sky Super Rugby Aotearoa.
Gallagher Chiefs CEO Michael Collins said that they have erred on the side of caution to play under Alert Level 2 restrictions, especially given the late decision to proceed with the match.
“Our primary focus is to provide opportunities that will best prepare the Gallagher Chiefs squad for Sky Super Rugby Aotearoa and also combat against the many uncertainties that exist for us all. Testing ourselves against the Blues and Crusaders provides that for us.
“We are compelled to err on the side of caution and operate the match with Alert Level 2 restrictions. Auckland is still in Level 2, it’s a short drive down State Highway 1 to get here and we know this fixture would have attracted thousands of passionate fans if we sold tickets to the public. With the stadium unavailable and less than three days to turn this event around, we’ve decided to play it safe and prioritise fans attending matches when the 2021 Sky Super Rugby Season begins.
“We know this decision may disappoint some of our loyal supporters, however thanks to Sky Sport fans can tune in live on Sky Sport 1 from 12pm on Saturday. Of course the Gallagher Chiefs team will give members and supporters a warm welcome at FMG Stadium Waikato for our first match of the season against the Highlanders on March 5,” said Collins.
Gallagher Chiefs Head Coach Clayton McMillan is looking forward to the newly announced fixture.
“The situation the Blues were put in was bigger than rugby. We were happy to change our plans to help provide an opposition for both them and the Crusaders this Saturday. After the successful hit out in Upper Hutt, we will continue to make our necessary adjustments and encourage our players to stake a claim for a starting position against quality opposition leading into our first match,” said McMillan.
Blues Head Coach Leon McDonald is delighted his team will take the field on Saturday.
”Things were not looking good for us as we have been unable to train as a team, so this is a real lifeline and vital as we try to make up time before the start of the competition. We are humbled by the support we have received from the clubs, especially for the Chiefs’ offer to host us and for the Crusaders who have been so supportive through this entire pre-season upheaval.”
Crusaders Head Coach Scott Robertson is looking forward to the final pre-season fixture of 2021.
“It’s disappointing for the Blues and the wider Auckland community to miss out on their planned Footy Fest at Eden Park this weekend, and I know a few Auckland-based Crusaders fans will have been looking forward to that contest as well.
“All clubs realise the importance of preparation leading in to the opening round of Super Rugby Aotearoa next week, so we are happy to head to the Waikato as it gives three teams the opportunity to have a pre-season hit out before the start of the competition.”
The teams will be named at on Friday February 19.