Fans to be barred from Super Rugby in Australia over virus

Sydney (AFP) –


Fans will be locked out of all Super Rugby games in Australia following this weekend's fixtures, officials said Friday, after the government moved to halt events of more than 500 people to counter the threat of the new coronavirus.

The decision comes after Saturday's game between the Jaguares and the Highlanders in Buenos Aires was also ordered behind closed doors, in line with an edict from city authorities.

Rugby Australia chief Raelene Castle said games in Australia this weekend would go ahead as normal, with the government's crowd ban taking effect from Monday.

The Queensland Reds host South Africa's Bulls in Brisbane on Saturday as part of a double-header after Japan's Sunwolves take on New Zealand's Canterbury Crusaders, a match relocated from Tokyo over virus fears.

On Sunday, the ACT Brumbies face the NSW Waratahs in Canberra.

"This is a position that no one in our game wanted to be in, but we have made this decision in line with the government response to this ongoing global health issue," said Castle.

"We are confident from this (government) advice that there is no significant or imminent health risk to our athletes or fans for the weekend's matches."

Matches in New Zealand will also go ahead as scheduled this weekend, with no plans currently to bar spectators.

"We are closely monitoring what's happening in other sporting codes around the world but are taking our advice from the New Zealand government," New Zealand Rugby said.

Super Rugby chief Andy Marinos earlier Friday said games in South Africa would also kick off this weekend as normal.

Sports events around the world have been upended by the virus, including this weekend's Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, which was cancelled on Friday after a team member tested positive.