South Africa coach ‘excited’ to resume Rugby Championship as schedule confirmed
Despite seeing South Africa spurned in their offer to host the rest of the Rugby Championship, head coach Jacques Nienaber is merely glad the tournament is set to get back underway.
The southern-hemisphere competition was temporarily in disarray following New Zealand’s refusal to travel to Perth amid an increase in Covid-19 cases on both sides of the Tasman.
But governing body SANZAAR announced on Tuesday that a new schedule is in place to complete the competition in Queensland, with South Africa planning to fly out on Thursday.
And Springboks tactician Nienaber is eager to take on some familiar foes, with his side set to face the Wallabies on back-to-back weekends before concluding their tournament against New Zealand.
“We are pleased that the Rugby Championship match schedule has been finalised and we are looking forward to continuing our campaign in Australia," he told reporters.
“We can now continue our planning to ensure that the players are ready for the next four matches from a physical and mental point of view, and we are excited about facing our old foes Australia and New Zealand again after kicking off the tournament well against Argentina.”
The Springboks downed the Pumas twice in the space of a week on home soil and now sit atop the Rugby Championship standings, albeit having played a game more than Australia or the All Blacks.
South Africa won their maiden Rugby Championship when the tournament was last held in 2019, although teams were restricted to just one match against one another to avoid clashing with the Rugby World Cup.
Clinching the title again two years on would be the ideal way to cap off a successful summer, with Nienaber’s men having already bested the British and Irish Lions 2-1 in a tense series.
There was consternation over who would host the upcoming clash between South Africa and New Zealand, with the next meeting between the two nations set to be their centenary.
It’s in some ways fitting that Test will now be played on neutral soil in Queensland, with the QLD Country Bank Stadium in Townsville poised to host that fixture on September 25.
Both South Africa and Argentina will be subject to a two-week quarantine period upon arriving in Australia, and Nienaber is looking forward to a taste of normality once this trial is over.
“The two-week quarantine period means we will be on tour for just under six weeks, but we are looking forward to experiencing normal life after a year-and-a-half of living under several forms of adjusted COVID-19 restrictions in South Africa,” he said.
“This will certainly assist in ensuring that the players are fresh mentally when they take the field, which is essential for them to peak in form.”
The Springboks are slated to face Australia at the Gold Coast’s CBUS Super Stadium on September 12, with the reigning world champions hoping to keep their place atop the table.
New Rugby Championship Schedule
Round 2 (Optus Stadium, Perth)
TBD: Australia v New Zealand
Round 3 (CBUS Super Stadium, Gold Coast)
Sunday, September 12: New Zealand v Argentina
Sunday, September 12: South Africa v Australia
Round 4 (Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane)
Saturday, September 18: Argentina v New Zealand
Saturday, September 18: Australia v South Africa
Round 5 (QLD Country Bank Stadium, Townsville)
Saturday, September 25: New Zealand v South Africa
Saturday, September 25: Australia v Argentina
Round 6 (CBUS Super Stadium, Gold Coast)
Saturday, October 2: South Africa v New Zealand
Saturday, October 2: Argentina v Australia
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