The Super Rugby clash between the Highlanders and the table-topping Crusaders was called off on Saturday as a mark of respect for those killed in the deadly mosque attacks in Christchurch.
The two teams were due to kick off in Dunedin (at 08:35 SA time), but the Christchurch-based Crusaders will now return home “to be with their community”.
The decision was made after meetings with both teams, venue management, and police. Both teams will receive two competition points.
“Advice from police and venue management was that the fixture could go ahead,” said New Zealand Rugby’s chief rugby officer Nigel Cass.
“However, with strong agreement from both teams we have made the final call not to proceed as a mark of respect for the events that have occurred in Christchurch.”
Crusaders chief executive Colin Mansbridge said the franchise was in shock after 49 people were killed by a right-wing extremist who attacked two mosques on Friday.
“Yesterday’s horrific attacks have left us all feeling stunned. All other issues and considerations pale in significance,” he said.
“We will now regroup and make arrangements for the team to return home as soon as possible to be back in their community and with their families.”
Highlanders chief Roger Clark said despite the match being the biggest fixture on their calendar “we feel this is the right decision”, with refunds offered to ticket holders.
It follows the cancellation of the third cricket Test between New Zealand and Bangladesh, which was due to start in Christchurch on Saturday, in the wake of the attacks.