The Blues will take a historic first Investec Super Rugby Championship match to Samoa in June.
Their home game against the Reds will be played in Apia on Friday June 2, it was announced by the Blues Chief Executive Michael Redman and Samoan Prime Minister and Chairman of the Samoan Rugby Union, the Hon Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi at Samoa House in Auckland.
It is the first Super Rugby match to be played in Samoa and the first major rugby match to be played under lights at Apia Park National Stadium, and coincides with Samoa’s 55th Independence Celebrations.
Mr Redman said that a set of exceptional circumstances presented an opportunity to take a home game overseas.
“The Investec Super Rugby draw this season threw up a unique situation with a home game scheduled only five days before our match against the British and Irish Lions at Eden Park” said Mr Redman.
“When we assessed all of our options within our region, taking this game to Samoa became an obvious choice. Our Blues region is home to around 150,000 proud Samoans and we have 15 players in our team with Samoan heritage, along with our head coach Tana Umaga.
“We were uncertain this could be organised so quickly given the draw was only announced four months ago. It has only been made possible by the efficient response and support of the Samoan Government, Samoan Tourism, the Samoa Rugby Union and Bluesky our leading commercial partner. In particular, we thank the Prime Minister for his leadership to make this event a reality.”
“This is an exciting opportunity for the Blues organisation and rugby both in our region and in Samoa.”
The Samoan Government is delighted to welcome the Blues as they plan to build on the successful hosting of the All Blacks in Apia in 2015.
“We are absolutely honoured to see such an event held here in Samoa. This is a positive step for our country,” said the Hon Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi.
“We had the Manu Samoa and All Blacks in 2015 and now in 2017 we will host the Blues vs Reds. This will attract some great tourism and overseas activity, and it’s good to see such great support behind this match with our sponsors such as BlueSky. We hope in future to attract more select games to Samoa in our Rugby Union field.
“The game will also be held on our Independence weekend which carries great significance for our country. We will proudly watch on and cheer for both sides in celebration of our independence and our love of sport.”
A key to the match is the commercial support from telecommunications service providers, BlueSky Samoa.
“This is a great opportunity to support the strength and spirit of Rugby Union locally. It will encourage grass roots growth and motivate our young ones to embrace the benefits of sports. We also want to embrace the exclusivity of such an event for Samoa. This is really big for our country and we’re excited to be part of this,” said Toleafoa Douglas Creevey, CEO Bluesky Pacific Group.
“Part of our vision is to connect our Pacific communities around the world and what better way than to bring inspiration right to our doorstep. We will be a part of an entertaining, elite first-time tournament in Samoa. More importantly we want our children, youth and young adults to know that they can aim high, and aspire to play this game professionally.
Blues coach Tana Umaga said the game will be an emotional one for him and his players, but also an extremely important game in terms of the Super Rugby Championship.
“As someone with Samoa heritage, I am very proud to be part of the first Super Rugby match played in Samoa and of course a number of our team have family members living there,” said Umaga.
“We are honoured to play there, and will be a unique experience. At the same time it will be important to also perform. This will be our eighth game in a row and our final Super Rugby game before our bye and the international window.”
Mr Redman said the Blues had also received tremendous support from its own commercial partners as well as from the Reds, New Zealand Rugby, NZRPA, Sanzaar, Sky Television, NZ Consul General, MFAT and the game promoter Essentially Group.
“We are grateful to all parties that have made this possible.”
SANZAAR is fully supportive of the further development on Super Rugby in the Pacific.
“SANZAAR is delighted that after the success of the Super Rugby match in Fiji last year we will see in 2017 a match in Apia thanks to the foresight of The Blues,” said SANZAAR CEO, Andy Marinos. “Indeed we will have two matches in the Pacific Islands this year. We recognise that Samoa like the rest of the Pacific Islands is an important geographical part of the rugby landscape in the southern hemisphere and the rugby talent and the support for the game within the region is amazing.”
The match will be played under the revamped floodlights at Apia Park on Friday 2 June, with kick-off at 8.35pm local time (7.35pm NZ time). The game will be broadcast live on Sky TV.
The Blues home game draw with venues is:
Saturday 11 March vs Highlanders, Eden Park, 7.35pm.
Saturday 25 March vs Bulls, QBE Stadium, 7.35pm.
Saturday 1 April vs Force, Eden Park, 5.15pm.
Saturday 15 April vs Hurricanes, Eden Park, 7.35pm.
Friday 12 May vs Cheetahs, Eden Park, 7.35pm.
Friday 26 May vs Chiefs, Eden Park, 7.35pm.
Friday 2 June vs Reds, Apia National Stadium, Samoa, 7.35pm (NZT), 8.35pm local
Wednesday 7 June vs British & Irish Lions, Eden Park, 7.35pm.