Highlanders-Crusaders fixture cancelled in wake of Christchurch attacks

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Saturday's Highlanders-Crusaders match has been cancelled in the wake of Christchurch terror attacks.

The New Zealand derby was due to be played in Dunedin on Saturday evening but New Zealand Rugby issued a statement on Saturday morning, advising its cancellation.

It's a decision that comes after a day of tragedy in New Zealand, with an estimated 50 people dead and upwards of 48 left injured after a shooting attack in two mosques in Christchurch on Saturday.

This is the first time since 2011 that a Super Rugby match has been cancelled, with a Crusaders-Hurricanes match in 2011 called off after earthquakes in the city.

NZR chief rugby officer Nigel Cass said the call was made after meetings with both sides, venue management, police and community groups.

“After consulting widely with both teams and key stakeholders, New Zealand Rugby has decided to cancel this evening’s match," Cass said in a statement.

“Advice from police and venue management was that the fixture could go ahead, however, with strong agreement from both teams we have made the final call not to proceed as a mark of respect for the events that have occurred in Christchurch."

While the game was not to be played in Christchurch, many of the players' families are still in the city and both sides were advised to return to them as quickly as possible.

SANZAAR released a statement later on Saturday, confirming the teams would share the four points on offer for the game, in a similar fashion to a 2011 Crusaders-Hurricanes game cancelled after an earthquake.

"SANZAAR does not take this decision lightly, but after consulting widely with key stakeholders, the SANZAAR Executive Committee has taken the necessary step to cancel the scheduled fixture as a mark of respect for the events that have occurred in Christchurch and in the best interests of the welfare of the Player's and staff of the Highlanders and Crusaders," Chairman Brent Impeyt said in a release.

Tributes have been flowing in for the victims and the city of Christchurch after the news spread around the world, led by an emotional video post from Sonny Bill Williams.

Crusaders CEO Colin Mainsbridge said the team was still "stunned" after news of the attacks on Friday.

“Yesterday’s horrific attacks have left us all feeling stunned.  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 while the Kiwi derby was highly-anticipated, its significance paled in comparison with the bigger issue of safety.

“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," he said. 

A scheduled cricket Test match between New Zealand and Bangladesh in Christchurch had also been earlier cancelled.

Friday night's Chiefs-Hurricanes match went ahead but the teams joined together for a minute's silence pre-game to acknowledge the tragic events.