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By Derek Alberts
A number of Boks are expected to shine in a double header tomorrow as rugby administrators in South Africa have pulled all the stops in the country’s race to catch up with the world that will see players huff and puff during the height of the southern hemisphere summer.
After six months of coronavirus-induced inaction, the World Cup champions are finally able to start playing competitively, and make up for lost yards at a time when their counterparts in Australasia and Europe have been slugging it out on the field.
To get the ball rolling ahead of a tough international itinenary over the next few months, South Africa’s Super Rugby franchises – Sharks, Stormers, Bulls and Lions – will do a double header on Saturday at Loftus Versveld in Pretoria.
The Lion and Stormers will meet in the curtain closer after the Bulls-Sharks clash, in what promises to be a day of double-dose attrition as fringe players will go full out to catch the eye of the national selectors.
The Super Fan Saturday will be followed by Springbok Showdown in Cape Town on October 3.
These two showdowns set the scene for a truncated and very much revamped domestic season – with two competitions in one – that kicks off on October 10. Essentially a localised Super Rugby competition knitted into the Currie Cup, seven teams will chase the spoils in the Super Rugby Unlocked and Currie Cup tournaments.
The seven teams – Sharks, Bulls, Lions, Stormers, Cheetahs, Griquas or Pumas – will contest a double round of fixtures over the next 16 weeks. Teams will meet home and away, and also have two byes during the four-month period.
Round one – October 10 to November 21 – will crown the Super Rugby Unlocked winner. All log points will be carried forward into round two, the Currie Cup, that kicks off on November 28 and culminates with the final on January 23, 2021.
To harden the next generation of likely Springboks, SA Rugby also unveiled a provincial Under-21 competition featuring the Blue Bulls, Free State, Golden Lions, Sharks and Western Province.
The hastily-assembled Plan B to jump start domestic rugby, called on the administrative verve of SA Rugby, a test it seemingly passed with flying colours.
“We are very grateful for the excellent cooperation we’ve had from our sponsors, broadcast partner, the unions and other stakeholders to get to a point where we can actually start looking forward to rugby matches on weekends again,” said Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby.
Key domestic rugby dates
Sept 26: Super Fan Showdown
Oct 3: Springbok Showdown
Oct 10: Super Rugby Unlocked kick-off
Nov 28: Currie Cup kick-off
Jan 16: Currie Cup semi-finals
Jan 23: Currie Cup final
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