Game on?

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By TRACEY ROXBURGH

Queenstown’s in the running to host three southern hemisphere powerhouse rugby teams for about two months.

And Queenstown’s mayor Jim Boult’s also pushing for a 2020 Rugby Championship game to be played at the Queenstown Events Centre — though even he admits that was a ‘‘tongue-in-cheek’’ request.

The championship, scheduled at this stage to run in New Zealand from November 7 till December 12 — Covid-19 Alert Levels permitting — sees South Africa, Argentina and the
Wallabies travel to NZ to play and stay for the duration.

Boult says, if Queenstown’s bid is successful, the Springboks, Pumas and Wallabies would take over one hotel each in the resort — equating to about 200 hotel rooms — to complete their initial two-week isolation.

‘‘The principal thing we have stressed is that our prime concern here is [preventing] any exposure to locals [from] the teams isolating here.

‘‘They will be in very strict isolation.

‘‘They will not have any expopure to locals — they’ll be travelling with their own medical staff, their own service staff, so the risk should be quite low.

‘‘They’re young and fit, they’ll be tested before they leave their home countries and they’ll be tested on arrival here.’’

Boult says he’s also pushing for all teams to be domiciled in Queenstown for the duration.

It comes after the government considered using Wakatipu hotels for isolating NZ returnees, but decided against it.

Boult says he then had ‘‘quite a long chat’’ with Quarantine Minister Megan Woods who told him the ‘‘government thinking’’ was Queenstown could instead host the rugby teams during their isolation.

He then talked to the NZ Rugby Union and suggested one team could stay, set up a base and be hosted here.

‘‘Pleasingly, that morphed into a proposal to have all three teams based in Queenstown for the duration … It’s clearly pretty exciting.’’

Boult says the plans are up in the air, based on the resurgence of Covid in Auckland, in particular, but he’s hoping to have a decision by the end of the month.

SANZAAR’s media man Greg Thomas says they can’t make any official comment at the moment, but says planning isn’t straightforward given circumstances around Covid outbreaks ‘‘and the various [Australian] state and federal government restrictions
that are often changing daily’’.

But the organisation managing and running the tournament’s in ‘‘constant dialogue’’ with NZ Rugby about potential plans.

‘‘We are looking at many various options; including venues for matches and teams.

‘‘But, again, nothing is set in concrete due to the current uncertainty — not assisted,
obviously, by the NZ government imposing, understandably, restrictions again due to a cluster in Auckland that led to the Blues v Crusaders match being cancelled.

‘‘As soon as we can confirm detailed plans we will make them public.’’

If the stars align, teams could start to arrive for isolation towards the end of next month.

Queenstown Chamber of Commerce interim boss Craig Douglas says it’d be the shot in the
arm the resort needs at the moment and will further help build Queenstown’s, and NZ’s,
reputation on a global scale.

The global media interest in the tournament will be ‘‘acute’’ on the basis it will be ‘‘the only [rugby] story in the world’’.

‘‘So the media coverage … will be pretty intensive and Queenstown will come out of that looking pretty good all the way through.

‘‘It just continues to build our reputation.

‘‘The fact NZ can host this and Queenstown’s part of that shows again our approach to Covid is pretty attractive in the rest of the world.

‘‘We’re just building our reputation all the time, really, for when the opportunity for people to travel opens up.’’

He believes it’ll help stimulate domestic tourism again and questions why people wouldn’t want to visit and ‘‘rub shoulders with some of these guys after they’ve been through their
quarantine period?’’

Boult says he’s sure there’ll ‘‘rightly’’ be concerns over the quarantine.

But he’s seeking ‘‘all sorts of assurances around that’’.

‘‘From what I’ve heard to date that looks like it’s going to be extremely well managed, with
none of the opportunities for failures as we’ve seen elsewhere around the country.

‘‘I think the town will see the opportunity to have 200 hotel rooms full for two months and
some great publicity out of it.

‘‘Plus, who knows, maybe a game … they haven’t told me no, yet.’’

tracey.roxburgh@scene.co.nz