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Restrictions lifted in South Africa ahead of Springboks Test series

South Africa has lifted all remaining restrictions on fan attendance, paving the way for its national rugby union team to play in front of a full-capacity home crowd for the first time since winning the World Cup in 2019.

South Africa’s Health Minister Joe Phaahla announced yesterday (Wednesday) that restrictions on gatherings have been removed, with mask-wearing also no longer mandatory. The announcement was made as COVID-19 cases, hospitalisations and deaths continue to fall in the country.

SA Rugby president Mark Alexander welcomed the announcement, which means that the Springboks’ upcoming Test series against Wales can go ahead without restrictions.

South Africa will face Wales at Pretoria’s Loftus Versfeld Stadium on July 2, before two further games at Bloemfontein’s Toyota Stadium on July 9 and Cape Town’s DHL Stadium (pictured) on July 16.

Stadiums in South Africa had previously been limited to 50% capacity but they will now be able to open without restrictions. The lifting of restrictions will also mean that the final of the Currie Cup club competition on Saturday can go ahead at full capacity.

South Africa won the 2019 Rugby World Cup but since then all of its home Test matches have been played without fans, including the Lions series last summer.

Alexander said: “Having these games at full stadiums is very important to us, and also with no masks, so life has almost turned back to normal. But that does not mean that we should no longer practice safe social distancing. We have to be responsible in the stadiums, and we would like to convey that message to our spectators as we look forward to an exciting and tough series against Wales.”

SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux added: “It feels like we’ve been set free. Certainly an additional 80,000-plus tickets for major rugby events have gone into the market today.

“The news comes just in time for the Carling Currie Cup final and the three Springbok Tests against Wales next month. We saw the massive appetite for returning to live sporting events with the playoffs in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship in Cape Town and Pretoria in the last few weeks and, as a sport, we are delighted with the news that we are moving back to normal.

“Our loyal fans have not been able to see the Springboks play in South Africa for almost three years, and we are expecting them to arrive in droves for the Tests against Wales in Pretoria, Bloemfontein and Cape Town next month.”

Image: Marlin Clark on Unsplash