Super Rugby: Covid threatens Moana Pasifika debut

Dylan Coetzee

Sekope Kepu in action during a Wallabies training session at Scotch College in Melbourne, Monday, August 12, 2019. (AAP Image/Daniel Pockett)

Super Rugby Pacific’s opening round is under threat as members of the Moana Pasifika squad wait on results from their Covid-19 tests.

A member of the side has been deemed a close contact from before the team left for Queenstown, the neutral base of the new club and the Super Rugby teams from New Zealand. 

While Moana Pasifika, led by Sekope Kepu, is at risk of having their last pre-season match being cancelled, the Blues also have a close contact in their squad.

Waiting on PCR results

New Zealand Rugby’s Chris Lendrum said both sets of players tested negative with rapid antigen tests but are waiting on PCR test results for a more clear picture.

“The PCR testing is going to tell us if there are positive cases in the environment but it’s highly unlikely that everybody is positive or everybody is negative.. so the next step is who are the close contacts?” Lendrum told RNZ.

“(That) will be determined by the DHB and that in turn will identify how many players inside the bubble can continue to train and how many have to isolate and what that means.”

It seems almost inevitable that there will be positive test results in the Moana Pasifika squad.

“Looking back at the transition period for Moana Pasifika, it’s absolutely possible, so we are preparing for the worst and anything else is a bonus,” Lendrum added.

The situation does not bode well for the preparation of Super Rugby debutants Moana Pasifika as the team has had limited time together making pre-season that much more important.

“The pre-season game was really important for them this weekend…we’ve all mentally prepared for the disruptions and the uncertainties but nothing quite prepares you for when you need to wait for the formal notification from a district health board as to the status of your team,” said Moana Pasifika chief executive Pelenato Sakalia.

Lendrum anticipated challenges in the build-up to the competition as the bio bubbles are still being established for the most part.

“We are still dealing with the transition of people into the environment and contacts that were broader than inside the (rugby) bubble,” he said.

“So we may well have a disrupted weekend this weekend… and then we will have to look downstream to the test results to see what they mean for round one.”

READ MORE: ‘Tries for Tonga’ campaign to aid relief efforts