The United Rugby Championship is heading to South Africa after it was confirmed on Friday that rounds six and seven of the competition will be hosted in the country.
Plans had been at an advanced stage for the SA teams’ home fixtures set for that round to be held in Europe, with Italy seen as the preferred destination, due to their inclusion on the UK travel red list, which would have required teams to isolate.
However with the country removed from the red list last week, it opened up the possibility for the games to be held in SA, which has now been confirmed and will see the Northern Hemisphere sides travelling down here.
“This is a brilliant result, not only for the South African teams but for the league which now gets to make a tangible impression in this rugby heartland early in the season,” said CEO of United Rugby Championship Martin Anayi.
“Huge credit must go to the South African government, SA Rugby and the leadership figures within our clubs for managing to push through and provide reassurances for these fixtures to be played at their home venues in such a short space of time.
“Up until late last week, it look like a very tall order for this to occur, but now everyone in the league has been bolstered by this news and we will harness that enthusiasm to get ready for some real blockbuster fixtures in rounds six and seven.”
The Stormers will be the first SA side to host their European opposition as they take on Zebre at 3pm on Saturday November 27.
The Sharks will take on Scarlets at 5.30pm and the Bulls will face a massive challenge in Munster at 7.45pm on the same day, while the Lions will host a Sunday match at Ellis Park against Cardiff with kick off at 4pm.
The next weekend will then see round seven with the Bulls up against Scarlets at Loftus on Friday night at 7.35pm.
Saturday’s games will then see the Sharks v Zebre at 3pm, Lions v Munster at 5.30pm and Stormers against Cardiff at 7.45pm.
“Along with our four franchises, we are thrilled with the news,” said SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux.
“Planning to play our teams ‘home games’ in Europe was a necessary step in light of the chaos caused by the pandemic, but we are really grateful that we’ve progressed to a stage where we can now welcome our friends from the northern hemisphere back to South Africa.
“Combined with the news earlier in the week that limited spectators will be allowed into stadiums, we can now start planning for matches in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town with fans in attendance. It’s a big step in the right direction.”