Harare – Having missed the 2020 edition of the Castle Lager International Rugby Championship due to the COVID-19 pandemic, South Africa’s Springboks return to the competition this year, starting with two home Tests against Argentina.
The Springboks host Argentina on August 14 and 21, before travelling to Australia for another pair of Tests on September 11 and 18. They round off their campaign with a double header against the All Blacks of New Zealand on September 25 and October 2.
Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber last week said these were exciting times for South African rugby.
“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.
With the last tournament having disturbed by the coronavirus pandemic, South Africa’s director of rugby Rassie Erasmaus said they were ready to return to action.
“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,” said Erasmus. “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.”
The Rugby Championship brings together Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa – the four highest ranked men’s national rugby sides in the Southern Hemisphere. The competition is administered by SANZAAR, a consortium consisting of the South African Rugby Union, the New Zealand Rugby Union, Rugby Australia and the Argentine Rugby Union.
With the tournament having been played on a home and away basis over the years, participating teams have agreed on a changed format due to varying travelling restrictions as a result of the pandemic.
“We have worked tirelessly with the national unions through the continued difficulties associated with the pandemic. 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,” said SANZAAR CEO Brendan Morris.