SA Rugby has confirmed the start date for the local rugby season, and also launched a one-off exhibition match that will mark the return of the game within South African shores.
No competitive rugby action has been possible in the country since March, when a national lockdown was first declared.
The hiatus in action meant that the Super Rugby season was cut short after just a handful of match days.
Springbok Showdown marks rugby’s return
The long wait rugby fans have had to endure will finally come to an end on the first weekend of October.
This is after an announcement made by SA Rugby on Wednesday that two teams made up of Springbok stars alongside up and coming talent will lock horns at Newlands on 3 October.
One team will be coached by Bok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick, while former Kings mentor Deon Davids will head the other.
Also involved as either side’s Team Commissioner will be director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus and Bok coach Jacques Nienaber.
Erasmus said the initiative will provide the players with an opportunity to shake off the dust after months of inactivity.
“The players will be encouraged to showcase their skills – individually and in their teams – and while it will be full-on, we’re expecting to see a highly competitive match of quality players against each other,” he said.
“It will be exciting – from the moment we select the squads, with a number of twists thrown in for good measure – through the build-up to the match and the actual encounter in Cape Town.”
Local season resumes
It was also confirmed that the local rugby season would kick off on Saturday, 26 September – a week before the Springbok Showdown.
The opening weekend will be marked by a double-header in Gauteng, which will pit the Bulls against the Sharks at Loftus Versfeld, while the Lions will host the Stormers at Ellis Park.
These, however, fall outside a double-leg competition, which kicks off on 10 October, ending on 23 January.
“This is a very exciting plan for the next few months, considering all the challenges we’ve faced this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and it will be great to see our best local rugby heroes battle it out from October to January,” said Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby.
“We’ve worked very hard with Government, SuperSport, our various sponsors and the franchises to get to this point and it’s great to know we can now look forward to brilliant provincial rugby being played in the next couple of months.
“Unfortunately, spectators won’t be allowed inside the stadiums as we are still working with certain COVID-19 regulations.”
Roux also added that there has been no confirmation made in terms of when the Springboks would return to action.