New Zealand's 'Super Rugby Aotearoa' is set to resume in the form of a five-team domestic competition.
This follows the New Zealand government's announcement on Thursday that professional rugby and netball will resume at Covid-19 alert Level 2.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is due to announce next Monday whether New Zealand will move to 'Alert Level 2', which allows significantly more freedom than Kiwis have experienced since lockdown began in late March.
Super Rugby Aotearoa will involve New Zealand's five franchises - the Blues, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Crusaders and Highlanders - and has been developed by the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZR) in conjunction with governing body Sanzaar, the Super Rugby teams and the NZ Rugby Players’ Association (NZRPA).
The five teams will play each other home and away over 10 weeks, with two matches every weekend. All matches will be played in closed stadiums.
"For our fans, our players and everyone involved in Super Rugby, we are thrilled that the Sports Minister has given the green light for professional sport to resume at level two," NZR CEO Mark Robinson said in a statement released by the All Blacks.
"Both netball and rugby have been working closely with government agencies on what training and playing at level two could look like, and we are incredibly grateful for their support."
Regarding a start date, Robinson explained: "As soon as the country announces what date we move to alert level two, we will be able to confirm what date Super Rugby will kick off."
The rugby boss added that the players would need three to four weeks to adequately prepare with contact training before matches could commence.
"We're delighted for our fans that in a best-case scenario we will have top-quality rugby back on our screens next month. I know the players would prefer to be playing in front of our fans, but the health and safety of Kiwis must come first."
Sanzaar CEO Andy Marinos also welcomed the news that live rugby could be on the horizon.
"We have known for some time that once the green light is given to recommence playing [in any of our territories] that a revised Super Rugby competition format would have to be implemented. This will mean a strong domestic focus in each territory given the travel, border and government restrictions that we will have to adhere to.
"Given today's announcement by the New Zealand government, Sanzaar will now in conjunction with NZR move to the implementation of the revised Super Rugby format that has been agreed upon by all Sanzaar partners and stakeholders. We will work with NZR around the possible start date that satisfies government requirements," said Marinos.
Super Rugby Aotearoa Q&A - READ HERE.