Boks welcomed back into SANZAAR fold
NEWS: South Africa will contest the Rugby Championship this year and co-host the Southern Hemisphere tournament with Australia and New Zealand, officials said Friday.
The COVID-19 pandemic meant last year’s Championship was a three-cornered contest staged solely in Australia as the Springboks stayed home citing player welfare concerns.
Governing body SANZAAR said the full complement of South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina would participate in this year’s tournament, which will run from mid-August until early October.
South Africa will host two games against Argentina to kick off the tournament before the action moves to Australia and New Zealand, which will each stage five matches.
“Following the unfortunate COVID-related disruptions of last year, we are very much looking forward to resume playing against the Pumas, Wallabies and the All Blacks,” South Africa’s Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus said.
“There is a great rivalry between us, but we also have a lot of respect for each other and have built good friendships over many years of southern hemisphere competition.
“Playing the All Blacks in their backyard is a massive challenge, Argentina showed their growing stature last year while the Wallabies are always tough opponents, especially on their home turf.”
SANZAAR Chief Executive Brendan Morris said officials would have preferred a home-and-away format but the pandemic meant they were unable to hold matches in Argentina.
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“Like last year, the Pumas will play all their matches away from home and we thank them once again for their understanding in this regard,” he said.
“We have worked tirelessly with the National Unions through the continued difficulties associated with the pandemic,” added Morris.
“This includes ongoing international border travel restrictions, quarantine protocols and player welfare concerns.
“Therefore, we have been unable to roll out the previously agreed mini-tour format as we simply cannot play matches in Argentina at present due to the impact of the pandemic.
“The exciting news is that we do welcome back South Africa to TRC after a difficult 2020 when the pandemic made it impossible for them to participate.
“The Springboks are the reigning World Champions and it will be fantastic for rugby fans to see them play once again in this prestigious tournament. As last year the Pumas will play all their matches away from home and we thank them once again for their understanding in this regard.”
Following two home internationals against Georgia and the three-Test British and Irish Lions Series, the Tests against Argentina will give Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber his first bite of Southern Hemisphere action.
“The two Tests against Argentina take the number of Springbok home matches this year to seven, which makes it an exciting but challenging home programme for us,” said Nienaber.
“We are grateful to all involved, at SANZAAR and SA Rugby, for the hard work being done to make this all possible, keeping in mind all the current pandemic difficulties.”
In addition to the 12-match Rugby Championship schedule, the All Blacks will host the Wallabies on August 7 in Auckland as part of their annual Bledisloe Cup contest.
All the match venues and kick-off times will be announced by the host nations in due course.
Saturday, August 14
Springboks v Argentina in South Africa
Saturday, August 21
Argentina v Springboks in South Africa
* Australia v New Zealand in Perth
Saturday, August 28
* New Zealand v Australia in Wellington
Saturday, September 11
New Zealand v Argentina in Auckland
Springboks v Australia in Australia
Saturday, September 18
Argentina v New Zealand in Wellington
Australia v Springboks in Brisbane
Saturday, September 25
New Zealand v Springboks in Dunedin
Australia v Argentina in Australia
Saturday, October 2
Springboks v New Zealand in Auckland
Argentina v Australia in Australia
* Double as Bledisloe Cup matches.