A crowd estimated at 20,000 attended Saturday’s Forsyth Barr stadium in Dunedin to watch the local Otago Highlanders team welcome the Waikato Chiefs to the Super Rugby Aotearoa competition.
With barely a face mask in sight and enthusiastic fans hugging each other with delight when points were scored, it was a successful return to “normal” for Otago, who beat visitor 28-27 with a Bryn Gatland’s last replacement drop goal.
To make the victory sweeter, Gatland is the son of Chiefs Warren coach, who will take on the British and Irish Lions during the planned tour of South Africa next year.
Before the game, Gatland, who resigned from Wales as coach after last year’s World Cup, spoke for many when he told the BBC that “people are pretty excited about being able to watch live sports. ”
He was less satisfied with the result, his team being denied victory after leading 27-25 with only one minute on the clock.
“I’m not happy that we lost the match, but well done to him. I don’t care if he’s my son or not. I’m going to go see that but I’m still disappointed with the result,” A said Gatland.
New Zealand lifted almost all of its restrictions on Covid-19 earlier this week, with no new cases of coronavirus reported for more than 20 consecutive days and with a relatively low death rate of 22 since the start of the week. pandemic.
This paved the way for the crowd to return to the stadiums of Crazy Rugby Country, the 50,000-seat Eden Park likely being full as the Auckland Blues host the Wellington Hurricanes in the second game of the weekend Sunday.
The main Super Rugby tournament, which involves teams from Australia, South Africa, Argentina and Japan, was halted in mid-March in response to the global pandemic.
In the meantime, the five New Zealand Super Rugby teams are playing in their own internal competition, Aotearoa, the Maori word for New Zealand, which is broadcast to an action-packed global television audience in a crowded atmosphere.
Taiwan, which has reported only seven deaths from coronavirus, has allowed fans to enter its baseball stadiums, but only at 50% of its capacity with deviations in social distancing between fans.