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Super Rugby suspended after this weekend due to coronavirus

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Hong Kong (AFP)

Super Rugby, the southern hemisphere's premier rugby union club competition, is suspending its season after this weekend's games due to the coronavirus pandemic, the organisers said Saturday.

Organisers SANZAAR said they had "no option but to suspend the 2020 Super Rugby tournament at the conclusion of this weekend's matches for the foreseeable future".

SANZAAR said it had taken its decision after the New Zealand government announced that all returning travellers, including Super Rugby players, will have to self-isolate for 14 days.

Five New Zealand teams, including reigning champions Canterbury Crusaders, play in the 15-team tournament which also includes clubs from Australia, South Africa and Argentina.

Crusaders played Saturday and went to the top of the table after securing a 49-14 bonus point win over the Tokyo Sunwolves in Brisbane.

The Canterbury-based side will be able to return home to New Zealand before the midnight Sunday deadline.

"SANZAAR completely understands the directive issued by the New Zealand Government given concerns globally over the COVID-19 virus and the primary aim to reduce exposure and spread of the virus," the organisers said.

Sunday's games between Jaguares of Argentina and New Zealand side Highlanders as well as the all-Australian match between ACT Brumbies and NSW Waratahs will go ahead before the suspension comes into place.

The tournament was already facing obstacles with fans barred not only from games in Argentina but also Australia from next weekend.

Next weekend, the Auckland Blues were scheduled to play ACT Brumbies at home, with New Zealand club Waikato Chiefs in the South African city of Durban to play the Coastal Sharks.

The coronavirus pandemic has rocked world sport. Football leagues have been suspended across the globe and cricket has been deeply affected with England's tour of Sri Lanka abandoned and the lucrative Indian Premier League announcing it will suspend play from March 29 to April 15.

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