A number of preparation fixtures have been organised from February 27 through to March 27, with eight teams playing four games over that period.
SA RUGBY has answered the question everyone was asking by confirming that professional rugby in this country will resume on the last weekend of February to kick off a preparation phase to the new season.
A number of preparation fixtures have been organised from February 27 through to March 27, with eight teams playing four games over that period. The preparation fixtures have been organised to prepare teams for the forthcoming Rainbow Cup as well as the Springboks’ Test season, which at this point is still set to start with the iconic series against the British and Irish Lions.
According to a press release issued by SA Rugby, the series of encounters has been specifically designed by the Rugby Department of SA Rugby and the competing unions to meet teams’ high performance needs against the landscape of the pandemic and to prepare them for the coming season.
One significant change is that teams will play on a 10-day cycle (rather than each week) to manage Covid testing protocols.
The need to see a wide range of players in action so that all bases are covered in the selection of the Bok squad for the Lions series would explain why there are eight teams playing, whereas only the four top franchises – the Bulls, Stormers, Sharks and Lions – will play in the Rainbow Cup in the northern hemisphere that will be a preparation for South Africa’s later entry into the PRO16.
The eight teams – the EP Elephants join the seven sides that competed in Vodacom Super Rugby Unlocked and the Carling Currie Cup from October last year – have been split into two groups and will play cross-pool matches, ensuring four encounters for every side.
Pool A will consist of the Bulls, Lions, Griquas and Cheetahs, and they will play the four sides in Pool B, namely the Sharks, Stormers, Pumas and Eastern Province Elephants.
Venues and kick-off times must still be confirmed, but the four matches in the opening round will see the Bulls host the EP Elephants, the Lions take on the Pumas, the Sharks squaring off against Griquas, and Stormers up against the Cheetahs.
“It’s imperative that we get the new season under way as soon as possible as we have a big year ahead, with preparing our players for the British & Irish Lions a top priority, but also providing opportunities for all teams to get match fit with an eye on entry into European competitions, and our planned local season,” said Rassie Erasmus, Director of Rugby.
Meanwhile, the Tafel Lager Griqua squad has already been hard at training since the beginning of the month, with a number of new faces in their ranks as well. Having seen them at practice this week, the guys are looking sharp and seem eager for the season to start. They have been hard at work honing their skills and trying out some new moves, before facing the Sharks in Durban on Sunday February 28.
“These matches will provide our top players with further opportunities to test themselves against the best in South Africa, while our match officials will also get some valuable game-time under the belt,” Erasmus added.
Preparation Series Fixtures
(home teams named first, kick-off times and venues to be confirmed):
Saturday 27 February
Vodacom Bulls vs EP Elephants
Lions vs NNC Pumas
Sunday 28 February
Cell C Sharks vs Tafel Lager Griquas
DHL Stormers vs Toyota Cheetahs
Tuesday 9 March
Toyota Cheetahs vs Cell C Sharks
Tafel Lager Griquas vs DHL Stormers
Wednesday 10 March
NNC Pumas vs Vodacom Bulls
EP Elephants vs Lions
Friday 19 March
Vodacom Bulls vs DHL Stormers
Lions vs Cell C Sharks
Saturday 20 March
NNC Pumas vs Toyota Cheetahs
EP Elephants vs Tafel Lager Griquas
Saturday 27 March
Toyota Cheetahs vs EP Elephants
Tafel Lager Griquas vs NNC Pumas
Cell C Sharks vs Vodacom Bulls
DHL Stormers vs Lions