Super Rugby Aotearoa finale in doubt after New Zealand's COVID transmission

Super Rugby Aotearoa's blockbuster finale is at risk of being played within an empty stadium or even not at all after New Zealand reintroduced restrictions following a COVID-19 breakout in Auckland.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday night announced a return to Level 3 restrictions for Auckland from Midday Wednesday through to midnight Friday when the situation will again be reviewed.

The rest of the country will move to Level 2 restrictions across the same period.

The country's first case of community transmission in more than 100 days means the Blues' home match against the Crusaders at Eden Park, which was announced as a sellout on Tuesday, is in danger of not going ahead.

The Blues on Wednesday morning confirmed their players had been sent home, as the club cleaned training equipment so that it could soon be used on an individual basis at home by the playing group.

"We are busy this morning readying our facility for shutdown as per level 3 requirements, cleaning gym equipment which will be dispersed around players so they can continue to train and prepare for our final game," the Blues said in a statement.

"NZR is in close and constant dialogue with Government and we will pass on more information when we have it.

"We are working through all the numerous scenarios and will probably be in a better position to comment with more clarity tomorrow (Thursday)."

If the restrictions were reduced to Level 2, the game would be able to proceed but without more than 43,000 fans who were lucky enough to secure a ticket for what looked to be the Blues' best chance of victory over their great southern rivals in many years.

But the Level 3 restrictions set to come into effect at midday Wednesday prohibit the Blues from training, meaning they would have had just two days' preparation and potentially a captain's run on Saturday if a return to Level 2 was instigated, before what is the biggest game of their season.

The Crusaders wrapped up the Super Rugby Aotearoa title last weekend with a 32-22 victory at home to the Highlanders, but that result had done nothing to diminish Auckland's expectation for Sunday's competition finale.

The competition's stewards, New Zealand Rugby [NZR], took to social media on Tuesday night to confirm it was in constant dialogue with the Arden Government and would give an update on the situation on Wednesday.

"NZR is currently assessing the impact on rugby following the Government announcement that Auckland will tomorrow move to Alert Level 3 and the rest of NZ to Alert Level 2. NZR is in close & constant dialogue with Government and a further update will be given tomorrow."

Super Rugby Aotearoa's other final-round match is between the Highlanders and Hurricanes in Dunedin, where the visitors were hoping to round out their season with a sixth straight victory.

It will be subject to the New Zealand Government's wider restrictions for the country, but at this stage could proceed without any spectators at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

New Zealand's ANZ Premiership netball competition was also due to have five games this weekend.

Meanwhile, the Crusaders say they are seeking "cultural advice" after damaging the Super Rugby Aotearoa trophy they had only received on Sunday.

"Following the match on Sunday, the trophy has accidentally been dropped and incurred some minor damage," Crusaders chief executive Colin Mansbridge said in a statement published by New Zealand media.

"We have notified New Zealand Rugby, and sought cultural advice. Repairs will be made as soon as possible.

"The Super Rugby Aotearoa trophy was designed to be touched and passed around."

The 'Tū Kōtahi Aotearoa' trophy features a carved wooden base representing an upturned Maori 'waka' canoe with a 'mere pounamu' -- a ceremonial weapon of Maori chieftains -- mounted on top.