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Georgia headlines international contingent on SA domestic scene

NEWS: SA Rugby announced the confirmed competition structure for the remainder of the 2022 season, which will see an expansion of the First Division as well as the women’s premier divisions and more provincial age-group competitions.

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With the United Rugby Championship and Currie Cup already in full swing, SA Rugby confirmed the competitions structure for the rest of the local rugby calendar, which will include a 10-team First Division competition as well as eight teams in the women’s premier division.

The bumper 2022 season is happening against the backdrop of the on-going uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, after the unusual January kick-off for the Currie Cup was prompted by the realignment of the South African domestic rugby calendar to dovetail with the Northern Hemisphere season.

Four South African franchise teams – the Bulls, Sharks, Stormers and Lions – are currently involved in the United Rugby Championship, which culminates in the final on 18 June.

A week after the URC showdown, on 25 June, is the climax of the local season, the Currie Cup Final.

In the First Division, seven local provincial teams will be joined by Georgia, Kenya and Zimbabwe in a brand-new competition, earmarked to get underway on the first weekend of April.

The trio of international participants will join the defending champions, the Leopards, Griffons, South Western Districts, Boland, Eastern Province, Border and the Falcons over a single round of action, with the final scheduled for the final weekend of June.

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Last December, the General Council of the South African Rugby Union approved a motion that the top South African team in the First Division be automatically promoted to the Premier Division at the end of the 2022 season, creating an eight-team Premier Division.

In addition, the promoted team will be entrenched for two seasons (until the end of the 2024 Currie Cup season) when the bottom team in the Premier Division will be automatically relegated in favour of the top South African team in the First Division, which will also be entrenched for two seasons before promotion/relegation at the end of the 2026 season.

Plans for a competition for the First Division sides in the last quarter of the year are also underway and will be confirmed in due course.

Furthermore, 2022 is also an important year for the women’s game, with the World Cup to be staged in New Zealand in October, following last year’s postponement.

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Locally, the Golden Lions women will join the six teams from the 2021 Women’s Premier Division – defending champions, the Border Ladies, as well as Western Province, EP Queens, Boland Dames, Blue Bulls Women and Sharks Women – in a new-look competition played over a single round from 23 April, with the final scheduled for 30 July.

The Women’s First Division, featuring eight teams – Leopards, Falcons, Limpopo, Pumas, Free State, Griffons, Griquas and SWD – commences on 11 June, with the structure of the competition to be confirmed in due course.

First up though will be the provincial Under-20 sides. The SA Rugby U20 Cup competition will be contested over a single round by the Bulls, Cheetahs, Eastern Province, Leopards, Lions, Sharks and Western Province, with the first round of fixtures on 25/26 February and the final on 16 April.

Six teams will contest the Under-20 Shield, from 9 April. The teams will be split in two groups, North (Limpopo, Pumas and Falcons) and South (Boland, Border and SWD), with the group winners squaring off in the final on 28 May.

The newly introduced U21 Cup and Shield competitions start simultaneously on 20 August and after a single round fixtures, the two top sides will battle it out for the title on 15 October.

The U21 Cup will see the Bulls, Free State, Eastern Province, Leopards, Lions, Sharks and Western Province battle it out, while the U21 Shield will be contested by Boland, Border, Griffons, Griquas, Limpopo, Pumas and Falcons.

SA Rugby CEO, Jurie Roux, said the announcement of the confirmed competition structure for this year comes with both a sense of relief and excitement.

“Understandably, it has been very difficult to plan for the new season in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and while a number of variables may yet change our plans, we are pleased to announce these competitions, ranging from the First Division and women’s leagues down to provincial age-group rugby,” said Roux.

“I’d like to commend the union CEOs and coaches for working so hard on numerous calls with our Rugby Department to produce a workable schedule despite all the challenges, which includes a very full roster for the remainder of the season, as well as our broadcast partner for getting on-board with these plans in an extraordinary season.”

All fixtures will be confirmed in due course.

The 2022 SA Rugby Competition structure

Currie Cup

Participating teams: Bulls (defending champions), Sharks, Lager Griquas, Western Province, Pumas, Cheetahs, Sigma Lions
Opening round: 14/15 January (double round of matches)
Final: 25 June

First Division

Participating teams: Leopards (defending champions), Griffons, Falcons, Boland Cavaliers, Eastern Province, Border Bulldogs, SWD Eagles, Georgia, Kenya, Zimbabwe
Opening round: 1/2 April (single round of matches)
Final: 24/25 June

Women’s Premier Division

Participating teams: Border Ladies (defending champions), Western Province, EP Queens, Boland Dames, Blue Bulls Women, Sharks Women, Golden Lions Women
Opening round: 22/23 April (single round of matches)
Final: 30 July

Women’s First Division

Participating teams: Leopards, Falcons, Limpopo, Pumas, Free State, Griffons, Griquas, SWD
Opening round: 10/11 June (competition structure to be confirmed)
Final: 16 July

SA Rugby Under-20 Cup

Participating teams: Lions (defending champions), Western Province, Bulls, Sharks, Leopards, Free State, Eastern Province
Opening round: 25/26 February (single round of matches)
Final: 16 April

SA Rugby Under-20 Shield

Participating teams: North – Limpopo, Pumas, Falcons; South – Boland, Border, SWD
Opening round: 8/9 April (two pools of three teams each, double round of matches)
Final: 28 May

SA Rugby Under-21 Cup

Participating teams: Bulls, Free State, Eastern Province, Leopards, Lions, Sharks, Western Province
Opening round: 19/20 August (single round of matches)
Final: 15 October

SA Rugby Under-21 Shield

Participating teams: Boland, Border, Griffons, Griquas, Limpopo, Pumas, Falcons
Opening round: 19/20 August (single round of matches)
Final: 15 October

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