The United Rugby Championship (URC) has been given the green light to stage its maiden games in South Africa, with fans set to be in attendance.

The cross-border rugby union club competition has today (Friday) confirmed that all home games scheduled for the Sharks, Stormers, Lions and Bulls in rounds six and seven will take place in South Africa.

Contingency plans to play these games in European locations were at advanced stages due to South Africa’s presence on the UK travel red list which would have required teams to quarantine for 10 days after their two-game tours.

However, since South Africa’s removal from the red list last week, the URC said “lightning-fast actions” have taken place to ensure that all four teams are ready to host their opponents from the northern hemisphere on home soil. This ensures that each team will have the integrity of playing all of their nine home games in South Africa.

Martin Anayi, CEO of United Rugby Championship, said: “This is a brilliant result, not only for the South African teams but for the league which now gets to make a tangible impression in this rugby heartland early in the season.

“Huge credit must go to the South African Government, SA Rugby and the leadership figures within our clubs for managing to push through and provide reassurances for these fixtures to be played at their home venues in such a short space of time.

“Up until late last week, it looked like a very tall order for this to occur, but now everyone in the league has been bolstered by this news and we will harness that enthusiasm to get ready for some real blockbuster fixtures in Rounds 6 & 7.”

The first URC game on South African soil will be the Stormers’ clash against Italian outfit Zebre at the newly-rebranded DHL Stadium (pictured) in Cape Town on November 27.

Earlier this week, SA Rugby advised its member unions that fully vaccinated supporters will be allowed to return to club and professional rugby matches – within the limits announced by the Minister for Sports, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa – and while observing the prevailing health guidelines.

A maximum of 2,000 spectators will be permitted entry to rugby venues following the detailing of new regulations by Mthethwa. SA Rugby indicated that the first senior professional rugby event to receive crowds in South Africa since the lockdown began in March 2020 is likely to be the Carling Champion Match against Kenya on November 6 at Loftus Versfeld Stadium.

Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby, said today: “Along with our four franchises, we are thrilled with the news. Planning to play our teams’ ‘home games’ in Europe was a necessary step in light of the chaos caused by the pandemic, but we are really grateful that we’ve progressed to a stage where we can now welcome our friends from the northern hemisphere back to South Africa.

“Combined with the news earlier in the week that limited spectators will be allowed into stadiums, we can now start planning for matches in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town with fans in attendance. It’s a big step in the right direction.”

Image: Captureson Photography on Unsplash