Roux: URC is a ‘new era’ for South African rugby

SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux has hailed the upcoming inaugural United Rugby Championship tournament as the start of an exciting new era that will bring South Africa closer to the northern hemisphere.

The United Rugby Championship kicks off on 24 September – when the Lions take on Zebre in Parma, Italy – as north and south collide in what promises to be an intriguing and spectacular new global rugby competition.

The new competition will feature 16 teams from five countries, battling it out over 144 matches to reach the eight-team playoffs in a season spanning eight months until the final in June.

Teams will be divided into four pools – a South African pool, Irish pool (Leinster, Munster, Ulster, Connacht), Welsh pool (Ospreys, Cardiff, Scarlets, Dragons) and Scotland-Italy pool (Benetton, Edinburgh, Zebre, Glasgow).

Each team will play 18 regular-season games – nine at home and nine away – and all the sides will face each other at least once during the league phase of the competition, which will include double rounds of local derbies before the top-eight teams qualify for the playoffs.

“The United Rugby Championship heralds an exciting new era for South African rugby that will bring us closer to our friends in the northern hemisphere, and we’re delighted to confirm our long-standing partner, Vodacom, as the title sponsor in the southern hemisphere,” said Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby.

“We’ve been exposed to club rugby from the north for a while now, but the Vodacom United Rugby Championship is a bold step into a brand-new era of franchise rugby for South Africa, in a competition that will reshape the global game.

“The possibilities for the future reflect a gear shift for rugby in South Africa as well as on the north-south axis. As we’ve seen with the recent British & Irish Lions tour, our teams will be facing some of the best players in the world, testing their skills against some of the strongest club sides and going toe to toe with master tacticians on a weekly basis.”

All 144 league matches, as well as seven finals matches, will be broadcast live on SuperSport. Among the optional new broadcast innovations are pencil cameras in coaches boxes, cameras behind kickers and body cams on water carriers, all offering a different perspective.

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Dylan Jack