The match between the Auckland Blues and the Wellington Hurricanes (30-20) played on Sunday June 14 represents the biggest crowd for a Super Rugby match in New Zealand for 15 years, as the local teams clash between them this year, to avoid contact and travel to Argentina, South Africa and Australia.

The 43,000 spectators present Sunday, June 14 at Eden Park in Auckland, the largest stadium in the country, join the 20,000 gathered the day before in Dunedin, without any restrictions, to witness the success of the local franchise of Otago Highlanders over the Waikato Chiefs (28-27).

As in Dunedin, despite the freshness of the start of the southern winter, spectators expressed their enthusiasm to find their way back to the stadium, in New Zealand, a country of 5 million inhabitants largely spared by the pandemic (22 deaths) and which lifted the last restrictions on Monday 8 June. Border controls remain in effect, said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who added, however, that social distancing measures and restrictions on the number of people who could assemble were no longer necessary.

Sports events are no longer forced to be held behind closed doors, a major development for the local rugby federation whose competition "Super Rugby Aotearoa" could have started in full stadiums. This championship is a tight version of Super Rugby which opposed franchises in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Argentina and Japan before its premature suspension in March due to the coronavirus epidemic.

Dan Carter, water carrier for his teammates

In Auckland, all eyes were on 29-year-old Beauden Barrett. The All Blacks' opening or back half played their first game in the Blues tunic against their former Wellington Hurricane team where the 2015 world champion, twice voted best player in the world (2016, 2017), played from 2011 to 2019.

In addition to Barrett, the Blues have been strengthened by attracting a living legend of New Zealand rugby, the opening half Dan Carter, 38, double world champion (2011, 2015) and best player in the world three times ( 2005, 2012 and 2015).

But if Barrett, number 15 on the back, played, and was warmly shoved by his former partners, bantering, after a missed tackle that contributed to the first try of the Hurricanes, Carter was not on the score sheet and provided his advice from the touchline.

Dan Carter, who completed a contract in Japan in April and notably played three years in France with Racing 92, was not yet physically ready to resume competition from the start of Super Rugby Aotearoa. He was content to carry water for his teammates and was delighted in a tweet to have accomplished this mission alongside another New Zealand rugby legend, Tana Umaga, now assistant coach of the Blues .

Waterboy duties with my good mate Tana today. Well done to the Blues boys getting an important win today.

- Dan Carter (@DanCarter) June 14, 2020

Barrett's contribution to the field, however, was overshadowed by the performance of the Blues pack, which won after a very hot game, and by the accuracy at the foot of Otere Black, author of 15 points and established at the half opening post.

With AFP

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