Rugby is back, and though it’s being played only in New Zealand for now, there is plenty excitement ahead of the Super Rugby Aotearoa competition which kicks off this weekend.
South African teams are not likely to return to action before August, while matches in England and France are also likely to begin around that time.
First up this weekend, however, the Highlanders will host the Chiefs
at 9.05am on Saturday at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, relaunching
top-flight international rugby following a global shutdown, while the Blues will host the Hurricanes at 5.35am on Sunday at Eden Park in Auckland.
The Crusaders will have a bye in the first round.
Reports this week indicated that 50 000 tickets had been sold for the opening round of fixtures, with 16 000 spectators expected in Dunedin and 34 000 in Auckland.
Local experts remain divided on the potential interest of South African rugby fans, but most are excited to see some rugby action amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
“What time is it?” was one of the first questions asked by former Bok captain and flank Corne Krige when he was approached for his opinion.
“It has been so long that we have seen any kind of live rugby since the worldwide lockdowns that any kind of action will do for me,” Krige said.
Krige, of course, led the Boks at the 2003 World Cup in Australia where they were knocked out by New Zealand in the quarterfinals.
“I think I talk on behalf of many South Africans, and I will be watching. The times don’t concern me,” he said.
“I will appreciate any kind of sport, and rugby, until such a time when we (South Africa) can also return to action.”
Former Bok lock and ex Lions coach Johan Ackermann said he might have
to divide his time between his family and watching the games.
Because of border restrictions, he was still stuck in SA while he waited to take up his new job with the Docomo Red Hurricanes in Japan.
“I would like to watch some of the games, but it depends on the time because now is also the time to give attention to the family. When the rugby starts again my free time will be minimal,” Ackermann said.
“The times without travel and the pressure, one has to enjoy, but it will indeed be great to see some rugby again.”
Former Bok lock Hannes Strydom, who
formed the middle row combination with Kobus Wiese during the epic 1995 World Cup win, believed local fans had been starved.
“So yes, I will definitely watch,” Strydom said.
“I believe we as South Africans are rugby crazy and most of us are so hungry to see some live matches that most us will be keen and very excited to watch.”