Super Rugby will be put on hold after this weekend's matches in the wake of New Zealand announcing that travellers entering the country must self-isolate for 14 days due to fears over the coronavirus outbreak.
SANZAAR, who run the competition, says it "has no option but to suspend the 2020 Super Rugby tournament" for the foreseeable future after the ACT Brumbies host the New South Wales Waratahs on Sunday.
SANZAAR said in a statement on Saturday that following the decree from the New Zealand government, it would not be feasible to carry on with the competition, with five teams from the country participating.
Already the Otago Highlanders, who face the Jaguares in Argentina on Sunday in a game played in a stadium without fans, will not return home in time to avoid the self-isolation period.
"The safety and welfare of the public, our players and other stakeholders is paramount and as previously stated we were always going to abide by government and health authority instructions on the issue of COVID-19 containment," chief executive Andy Marinos said.
"We are extremely disappointed for the players, our fans, broadcasters and partners but given the complexity of our competition structure, and the multiple geographies that we cover, we have no other option but to align with such directives.
"We also believe it is time for all those players currently overseas to return home and to be with their families."
The directive from New Zealand left the competition, involving teams from Argentina, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa, hamstrung after only seven completed rounds following this weekend. The event is based on 18 rounds of group matches, followed by knockout rounds and the final.
"Our priority is, therefore, to ensure our players are within their homes territories from the end of this weekend," Marinos continued.
"SANZAAR will also remain engaged with its stakeholders and will continue to explore avenues to see if we can keep the rugby product alive within our core markets, with the possibility to be in a position to resume the tournament if at all possible in future weeks."
The statement further said that the organisers hoped to devise a plan for the remaining fixtures that would be communicated in the coming days.