New Zealand’s Super Rugby teams will launch a domestic competition in June after the government eased strict COVID-19 lockdown restrictions making fixtures possible in the country.

Named Super Rugby Aotearoa – the Maori name for New Zealand – the competition will kick off on 13 June Saturday. The Highlanders will take on the Chiefs in Dunedin. The Blues will play the Hurricanes the next day

The five-team competition will have two matches each week over ten rounds, with games played without fans while coronavirus rules continue to prohibit mass gatherings.

Australia are weighing a similar five-team domestic competition, although no firm start date has been announced. South Africa is believed to be pondering similar, but the country is still in the midst of a strict lockdown.

The competitions are temporary replacements for the southern hemisphere’s 15-team Super Rugby championship which also features clubs from South Africa, Argentina and Japan.

Governing body SANZAAR suspended Super Rugby in mid-March as the pandemic closed international borders.

“The thought of five world-class Kiwi teams battling it out in 20 matches over 10 weeks should put a smile back on the faces of many people,” New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson said.

“I know our players are excited and I’m sure rugby fans will be as well.”

The competition was made possible after New Zealand on Monday announced it was phasing out a seven-week lockdown that has helped contain COVID-19.

NZR medical manager Karen Rasmussen said the game’s administrators had agreed with the government to enforce strict health protocols.

These include daily symptom and temperature checks for everyone involved, charter flights to matches, as well as measures to help contract tracing if there is an outbreak.

Super Rugby 2020 fixtures: New Zealand competition dates

All matches will kick off at 17:05 or 15:05 New Zealand time, which is GMT+12.

13 JuneHighlanders v ChiefsDunedin17:05
14 JuneBlues v HurricanesAuckland15:05
20 JuneChiefs v BluesHamilton17:05
21 JuneHurricanes v CrusadersWellington15:05
27 JuneBlues v HighlandersAuckland17:05
28 JuneCrusaders v ChiefsChristchurch15:05
4 JulyHighlanders v CrusadersDunedin17:05
5 JulyChiefs v HurricanesHamilton15:05
11 JulyCrusaders v BluesChristchurch17:05
12 JulyHurricanes v HighlandersWellington15:05
18 JulyHurricanes v BluesWellington17:05
19 JulyChiefs v HighlandersHamilton15:05
25 JulyCrusaders v HurricanesChristchurch17:05
26 JulyBlues v ChiefsAuckland15:05
1 AugustChiefs v CrusadersHamilton17:05
2 AugustHighlanders v BluesDunedin15:05
AugustHurricanes v ChiefsWellington17:05
9 AugustCrusaders v HighlandersChristchurch15:05
15 AugustHighlanders v HurricanesDunedin17:05
16 AugustBlues v CrusadersAuckland17:05