WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Starved of live sports action during the coronavirus shutdown, New Zealand rugby fans have snapped up tickets for the Auckland Blues match against the Wellington Hurricanes on Sunday, with officials putting up the ‘full house’ sign at Eden Park.
New Zealand’s government lifted virtually all COVID-19 restrictions earlier this week, allowing a 10-week competition for the country’s five Super Rugby teams to begin this weekend without any limits on crowd sizes.
The Blues said that by 12 p.m. local (0000 GMT) on Saturday they had sold 43,000 tickets, the capacity set for the match, and there would be no gate sales on matchday.
Eden Park can usually seat up to about 50,000.
“It was only a few weeks ago that we were planning for a competition behind closed doors,” Blues Chief Executive Andrew Hore said in a statement on Saturday.
“This will be a special occasion that everyone will remember and a celebration of what New Zealand has achieved as a nation to get to this stage.”
‘Super Rugby Aotearoa’ begins later on Saturday with the Otago Highlanders hosting the Waikato Chiefs in Dunedin, with officials expecting a near-capacity crowd in excess of 20,000.
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford