The opportunity to watch top local rugby over dates more traditionally reserved for the cricket season will come as joyful relief for sports-deprived fans, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Step by step, we are edging ever closer to the long-awaited resumption of competitive rugby in South Africa.
It feels like an age has passed since Vodacom Super Rugby was halted in mid-March, with the enduring – but ultimately naive – expectation back then revolving around hopes of a return to play before too long.
Yet, nearly six months have passed since then, and each time a touted target date arose for a competition to begin again, it’s ultimately had to be pushed back.
It’s entirely understandable then that SA Rugby will not rush to confirm any revised local fixtures until they’ve crossed all the Ts and dotted all the Is.
But as reported earlier this week, SARugbymag.co.za has reliably learned that 10 October is now the new prospective ‘relaunch’ date for action to start, ultimately including 14 rounds of action before the playoffs.
The competition may go by an entirely new name considering it is a rebranded tournament that effectively offers an avenue for South African teams after Vodacom Super Rugby, the PRO14, Currie Cup and SuperSport challenge were all disrupted in different ways due to the pandemic.
If rumours are to be believed, the Cheetahs could be set to host the Pumas in the opening round, with the Lions travelling to face the Sharks in Durban, while the Vodacom Bulls face off against the Griquas at Loftus.
The Stormers could be set for a bye in the first round – with each team expected to have two byes throughout the competition – with the Kings’ withdrawal from action leaving the domestic tournament to be contested between seven sides.
Should all go ahead as planned, what will catch the eye is the potential for the competition to progress through November and December, which would include fixtures on Boxing Day and 2 January.
The thought of the Bulls and Lions going into battle the day after Christmas will be a mouth-watering prospect for sports fans who usually reserve that day for the more traditional Boxing Day cricket Test.
Similarly, the New Year dates are usually set aside for cricket, but the final two rounds of action as well as the playoffs could all be spread across January.
SA Rugby understandably continues to await the green light from government and stakeholders before providing confirmation of the renewed domestic competition, but there are finally signs of light on the horizon.
This week, South Africa’s franchises returned to contact training with minimal reports of Covid-19 positive tests, and as we edge closer to kick-off of a completely new-look tournament, rugby could finally be in line for a much-needed shot in the arm.
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