Ross Roche
Senior sports writer
2 minute read
29 Nov 2021
12:18 pm

Will it be derby December for SA’s URC teams?

Ross Roche

The travel ban means fixtures may have to be changed, which could see the four SA teams playing against each other sooner than expected.

The Stormers, in a huddle here at training, may be in action against local opposition sooner than expected. Picture: Grant Pitcher/Gallo Images

The South African United Rugby Championship teams are currently facing an anxious wait to see if they will be permitted to move their local derby fixtures to December after their two home fixture weekends were postponed due to the discovery of a new Covid variant in the country.

The four SA teams were set to face the Cardiff Blues, Munster, Zebre and Scarlets, before the country was put on the UK and EU travel red list, which saw the sides then scrambling to get back home.

However, positive cases in the Cardiff and Munster camps have seen the teams go into quarantine and they will be in South Africa for another 10 days before they can head back home.

It has been a fractured URC campaign for the local sides who kicked off their campaign with a four week tour in Europe, before breaking for the November international break.

They were then set to host their first two rounds of the URC, before facing another month off as the other URC teams took part in the European Rugby Champions Cup (ERCC), which the SA sides are hoping to be a part of next season.

They are then scheduled to face one round of away fixtures in early January, which now seems unlikely due to the travel ban, before the other URC sides again feature in the ERCC, which leads to another three week break in fixtures for the SA teams.

Local derbies

The local derbies were then scheduled to get under way in late January when the Lions, Bulls, Stormers and Sharks were set to play each other over three weekends.

However it has been rumoured that serious consideration is being given to shifting some of those fixtures to December.

SA Rugby have confirmed that they will be unable to make any announcement on changes to the schedule until it is confirmed by the URC organising committee who have to make the decision on whether any games are switched around.

It does, however, make sense to move some, if not all of the local fixtures to the December and early January slots, which will then give the URC organisers room to fit the postponed games into the late January and early February window.

This would also give the SA teams time to travel to the UK and EU and quarantine if need be before playing those postponed fixtures.

So it is now a waiting game for the local teams and fans to see if any URC action will take place next month, or if the Lions, Bulls, Stormers and Sharks will have to wait until January to resume their very disrupted first URC campaign.