Johannesburg - Cardiff Rugby, Munster, Scarlets and Zebre will make their way back to South Africa early next month to fulfil their commitments concerning postponed United Rugby Championship (URC) matches against the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers; SA Rugby revealed in a statement on Wednesday.
The home matches against the European franchises were hastily postponed in November last year, much to the chagrin of supporters, after the Omicron variant of Covid-19 was discovered in the country, resulting in travel restrictions being placed on South Africa at the time.
Those matches, the statement explained, have now been rescheduled for the weekends of March 11 and March 18, starting with a Round 6 encounter between the Sharks and Scarlets at Hollywoodbets Kings Park on Friday. The Bulls will then have a massive clash against Munster on the Saturday, while the Lions are set to play Scarlets on Sunday. The encounter between the Stormers and Zebre will also be played that weekend, but the finer details of the clash will be finalised at a later date.
Round 7 will commence a week later when the Bulls host the Scarlets that Friday, followed by the Lions v Munster and Sharks v Zebre on Saturday, with the Stormers finishing off the schedule on Sunday against Cardiff.
“I would like to say special thanks to the teams, broadcasters and support staff involved in rescheduling these games,” said URC CEO Martin Anayi in the statement, regarding the new scheduling.
“These fixtures hold a huge significance in South Africa, who are eagerly awaiting the first visit of URC teams to their stadiums which have not hosted international opponents since early 2020. Having been on the ground alongside other members of the URC management team in December when these games were postponed, we were fully aware of the circumstances that isolation presented.
📆 Dates for your diary 📆#URC confirms rescheduling of South African R6 & R7 home games 👇— United Rugby Championship (URC) (@URCOfficial) February 9, 2022
“Player welfare remains paramount to rugby’s success and after much internal consultation we believe that our clubs and players are confident that contingencies now exist that – no matter how unlikely to be needed – can expedite any future process.
“With 12 of our teams due to tour South Africa before the end of the season we know they will receive a warm welcome off the pitch. Through a sporting lens, Covid has thrown a lot at us but we’re very optimistic that the effort and co-ordination involved to get back on track should reward us with a lot of entertaining rugby and a tremendous finish to the first URC season,” Anayi concluded.
Friday, March 11: Cell C Sharks v Scarlets @ Hollywoodbets Kings Park, 7pm
Saturday, March 12: Vodacom Bulls v Munster @ Loftus Versfeld, 4pm
Sunday, March 13: Emirates Lions v Cardiff Rugby @ Emirates Airline Park, 4pm
TBC: DHL Stormers v Zebre Parma @ DHL Stadium
Friday, March 18: Vodacom Bulls v Scarlets @ Loftus Versfeld, 7pm
Saturday, March 19: Emirates Lions v Munster @ Emirates Airline Park, 2pm; Cell C Sharks v Zebre Parma @ Hollywoodbets Kings Park, 6.30pm
Sunday, 20 March: DHL Stormers v Cardiff Rugby @ DHL Stadium, 2pm