SYDNEY, Jan 31 (Reuters) - The ACT Brumbies said on Friday they were “moving ahead” with preparations for their Super Rugby opener on Friday despite a state of emergency being called for Canberra and surrounding regions due to a massive bushfire south of the capital city.
The Australian Capital Territory First Minister Andrew Barr declared the emergency on Friday and with temperatures expected to exceed 41C (105.8°F) he described the Namadgi National Park fire as the “worst bushfire threat since ... 2003”.
The Brumbies, who moved pre-season training to Newcastle for 10 days due to bushfire smoke, said there was no immediate threat to the game against Queensland Reds and used social media to broadcast an image of clear blue skies over Canberra Stadium.
The match kicks off at 7:15 p.m (0915 GMT).
The Super Rugby season opens with the Auckland Blues hosting fellow New Zealand side Waikato Chiefs earlier on Friday.
Southern hemisphere rugby bosses SANZAAR have been keeping a wary eye on the bushfires, which have killed 33 people and about 1 billion animals since September and destroyed 2,500 homes and an area the size of Greece.
The governing body issued an air quality policy on Wednesday to help officials assess the effects of bushfire smoke after several other sporting events around the country were disrupted.
A domestic Twenty20 cricket match in Canberra was abandoned in December because of the smoke.
Tennis players in Melbourne for Australian Open qualifying complained of not being able to breathe, with Slovenia’s Dalila Jakupovic forced to retire from her match after suffering a coughing fit.
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Peter Rutherford