South Africa’s four Vodacom United Rugby Championship teams will host Scarlets, Munster, Cardiff and Zebre Parma next month in two rescheduled rounds of the competition, which had to be postponed late last year.
With the onset of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in November last year, travel restrictions resulted in several fixtures being postponed, and with the pandemic seemingly taking a turn, tournament organisers announced on Wednesday that the rescheduled matches from rounds six and seven will be played next month.
The Cell C Sharks will host Scarlets in Durban, the Vodacom Bulls will take on Munster in Pretoria, the Emirates Lions will battle it out with Cardiff in Johannesburg, and the DHL Stormers will line up against Zebre Parma in Cape Town in the rescheduled Round 6 fixtures on the weekend of 11-13 March.
A week later, from 18-20 March, the Round 7 fixtures will see the Vodacom Bulls meet Scarlets in Pretoria, the Emirates Lions take on Munster in Johannesburg, the Cell C Sharks host Zebre Parma in Durban, and the DHL Stormers go up against Cardiff in Cape Town.
The South African teams will play their fourth round of derbies in a row on Saturday before enjoying a well-deserved week break before a short one-week trip abroad at the end of the month.
United Rugby Championship CEO Martin Anayi said: “I would like to say special thanks to the teams, broadcasters and support staff involved in rescheduling these games. 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.
“Player welfare remains paramount to rugby’s success and after much internal consultation we believe that our clubs and players are confident that contingences 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.”
Rescheduled Vodacom United Rugby Championship fixtures (SA kick-off times):
Friday, 11 March
19h10: Cell C Sharks v Scarlets (Hollywoodbets Kings Park, Durban)
Saturday, 12 March
16h05: Vodacom Bulls v Munster (Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria)
Sunday, 13 March
16h00: Emirates Lions v Cardiff Rugby (Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg)
Time TBC: DHL Stormers v Zebre Parma (DHL Stadium, Cape Town)
Friday, 18 March
19h10: Vodacom Bulls v Scarlets (Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria)
Saturday, 19 March
14h00: Emirates Lions v Munster (Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg)
18h30: Cell C Sharks v Zebre Parma (Hollywoodbets Kings Park, Durban)
Sunday, 20 March
14h00: DHL Stormers v Cardiff Rugby (DHL Stadium, Cape Town)