Napier - The Crusaders will play their first Super Rugby "home" game of the next season against the Chiefs at McLean Park in Napier on March 9, the Christchurch-based team's chief executive Hamish Riach said on Thursday.
February's Christchurch earthquake forced the seven-times champions to play all their games away from home last year, incurring a massive loss of potential earnings, and the new stadium is not yet ready to host their first home match.
"Having lost NZ$700 000 ($563 900) last year, we are extremely conscious of the financial implications of all our decisions this year, and the extra return from playing at McLean Park is significant," Riach was quoted as saying on the Crusaders website (www.crusaders.co.nz).
"We played there last season and had fantastic support and we believe that support will be there again this year," he added.
While Napier promised better financial returns, Riach said it was not easy to overlook Timaru or Nelson.
"Both those cities gave us tremendous support last season and while we know there will be disappointment that we are not returning for a match in 2012, we hope our fans in those cities understand the reasons for the decision," Riach added.
The Crusaders open the season with two away fixtures, against the Blues in Auckland on Feb. 24 and the Highlanders in Dunedin on March 2, before facing the Chiefs in Napier.
Their next home game is against the Cheetahs on March 24 and is expected to go ahead as scheduled at Rugby League Park in Christchurch.
($1 = NZ$1.24)