Cardiff players in South Africa. Photo: Cardiff Blues website
Cardiff players in South Africa. Photo: Cardiff Blues website
The postponed URC fixtures from Rounds Six and Seven (that were due to take place in South Africa at the end of November/beginning of December) have now officially been moved to the weekends of 11/12 March and 18/19 March. More details about these fixtures – which are set to see Cardiff play the Lions and Stormers – will be confirmed after further discussions with key stakeholders involved are completed.
Those rounds were thrown into disarray recently when the Omicron variant was detected in South Africa, sending the overseas scrambling to leave the country.
As chaos reigned, there were some suggestions that the overseas teams might be hesitant to return to South Africa, and this is now clearly the case.
In particular, Cardiff and Munster battled to get home after Covid-19 cases forced members of the travelling group into hotel isolation, while travel restrictions enforced by governments made it difficult to secure flights.
When asked about the prospect of returning to South Africa, Cardiff’s Director of Rugby Dai Young told BBC Sport “we’ll take a bit of convincing”.
“The onus is on the URC, really, to convince us that it’s the right thing to do. I know they’ve come out and made a statement that we’re [potentially] going back there, but first and foremost we’d need guarantees that if something did happen, we’d get out of there.
“The British government showed their hand and the Welsh government showed their hand. We were pretty much stranded out there.
“It was very difficult for us to get out of the country. Once is probably bad luck, twice is a bit stupid really, isn’t it.”
“As players, we want assurances that there’s going to be things in place that are going to look after us. It’s important the players and staff aren’t hung out to dry basically, like it felt we were when we were out there before.
“What’s important is the URC get clarity on what happens and there’s assurances in place that we can get out there with a safe passage.
“Ultimately, we want to play the games against the best teams but we also want to know that players and staff are going to be safe as well.”
Previously, Bulls coach Jake White – for example – made it emphatically clear that South African teams would not be willing to ‘forfeit’ home-ground advantage in the future.
“We don’t play ‘home games’ away, the bottom line is that it’s a competition where you need to play your home games in your own country. I would find it highly unlikely that organisers of such a competition would expect a team to go play ‘away’ for their home games, that’s not going to happen. I can’t see that being a feasible option.”
As it turns out, South African teams will now need to wait until March before finally facing overseas opposition on local soil.
On Monday, the scheduling for the United Rugby Championship (URC) up to Round 17 were confirmed as completed, with adjustments made to cater for postponed and rescheduled fixtures, organisers announced on Monday.
The South African teams were due to travel overseas in early January, but these games have now been moved to the final weekend of February to avoid further rescheduling in the immediate calendar.
Several South African derbies have also been adjusted to accommodate the revised schedule.
In a statement, organisers said they were fully committed to playing all games as scheduled but would ensure that the welfare of teams and players came first.
The URC statement said: “The league is greatly encouraged by the decision of the UK government to ease travel restrictions with respect to South Africa and will continue to comply with directions set out by the health authorities and government departments in our various jurisdictions.
“The URC Medical Advisory Group will continue to provide regular guidance and updates to our Clubs regarding best practice and health and safety measures in relation to Covid-19 protocols.
“The dates and kick-off times for Round 18 will be confirmed next month after consultation with our broadcast partners who have been of a great assistance during this process.”
R10 – Saturday, January 8
Edinburgh v Cardiff 15:00 UK / 16:00 ITA / 17:00 SA
Glasgow Warriors v Ospreys 17:15 UK / 18:15 ITA / 19:15 SA
Munster v Ulster 19:35 UK / 20:35 ITA / 21 :35 SA
Scarlets v Dragons 19:35 UK / 20:35 ITA / 21 :35 SA
R8 (SA URC Derbies) – Saturday, January 22
Emirates Lions v Cell C Sharks 13:00 UK / 14:00 ITA / 15:00 SA
Vodacom Bulls v DHL Stormers 15:05 UK / 16:05 ITA / 17:05 SA
R11 – Friday, January 28
Ulster v Scarlets 19.35 UK / 20.35 ITA / 21.35 SA
Dragons v Benetton 19.35 UK / 20.35 ITA / 21.35 SA
Saturday, January 29
Emirates Lions v Vodacom Bulls 13.00 UK / 14.00 ITA / 15.00 SA
Connacht v Glasgow Warriors 14.55 UK / 15.55 ITA / 16.55 SA
Cell C Sharks v DHL Stormers 15.05 UK / 16.05 ITA / 17.05 SA
Zebre Parma v Munster 17.00 UK / 18.00 ITA / 19.00 SA
Ospreys v Edinburgh 17.15 UK / 18.15 ITA / 19.15 SA
Cardiff v Leinster 19.35 UK / 20.35 ITA / 21.35 SA
R9 (SA Derbies) – Saturday, February 5
Vodacom Bulls v Emirates Lions 13.00 UK / 14.00 ITA / 15.00 SA
DHL Stormers v Cell C Sharks 15.05 UK / 16.05 ITA / 17.05 SA
R12 (SA Derbies) – Saturday, February 12
Emirates Lions v DHL Stormers 13.00 UK / 14.00 ITA / 15.00 SA
Vodacom Bulls v Cell C Sharks 15.05 UK / 16.05 ITA / 17.05 SA
R12 – Friday, February 18
Munster v Edinburgh 19.35 UK / 20.35 ITA / 21.35 SA
Cardiff v Zebre Parma 19.35 UK / 20.35 ITA / 21.35 SA
Saturday, February 19
Leinster v Ospreys 17.00 UK / 18.00 ITA / 19.00 SA
Scarlets v Connacht 19.35 UK / 20.35 ITA / 21.35 SA
Glasgow Warriors v Benetton 19.35 UK / 20.35 ITA / 21.35 SA
Sunday, February 20
Dragons v Ulster 14:00 UK / 15:00 ITA / 16:00 SA
R10 (Rescheduled) – Friday, February 25
Zebre Parma v Vodacom Bulls 17:30 UK / 18:30 ITA / 19:30 SA
Leinster v Emirates Lions 19:35 UK / 20:35 ITA / 21 :35 SA
Saturday, February 26
Connacht v DHL Stormers 13:00 UK / 14:00 ITA / 15:00 SA
Benetton v Cell C Sharks 15:05 UK / 16:05 ITA / 17:05 SA
R13 – Friday, March 4
Ulster v Cardiff 19.35 UK / 20.35 ITA / 21.35 SA
Edinburgh v Connacht 19.35 UK / 20.35 ITA / 21.35 SA
Saturday, March 5
Benetton v Leinster 12.55 UK / 13.55 ITA / 14.55 SA
Scarlets v Glasgow Warriors 17.15 UK / 18.15 ITA / 19.15 SA
Munster v Dragons 17.15 UK / 18.15 ITA / 19.15 SA
Sunday, March 6
Ospreys v Zebre Parma 14.00 UK / 15.00 ITA / 16.00 SA
R6 (Rescheduled) – Weekend of March 11/12/13
DHL Stormers v Zebre Parma TBC
Cell C Sharks v Scarlets TBC
Vodacom Bulls v Munster TBC
Emirates Lions v Cardiff TBC
R7 (Rescheduled) – Weekend of March 18/19/20
Vodacom Bulls v Scarlets TBC
Cell C Sharks v Zebre Parma TBC
Emirates Lions v Munster TBC
DHL Stormers v Cardiff TBC
R14 – Friday, March 25
Emirates Lions v Ospreys 17.00 UK / 18.00 ITA / 19.00 SA
Munster v Benetton 19.35 UK / 20.35 ITA / 21.35 SA
Saturday, March 26
Zebre Parma v Scarlets 13.00 UK / 14.00 ITA / 15.00 SA
DHL Stormers v Ulster 13.00 UK / 14.00 ITA / 15.00 SA
Cell C Sharks v Edinburgh 15.05 UK / 16.05 ITA / 17.05 SA
Cardiff v Glasgow Warriors 17.15 UK / 18.15 ITA / 19.15 SA
Vodacom Bulls v Dragons 17.15 UK / 18.15 ITA / 19.15 SA
Connacht v Leinster 19.35 UK / 20.35 ITA / 21.35 SA
R15 – Friday, April 1
Cell C Sharks v Dragons 18.30 UK / 19.30 ITA & SA
Glasgow Warriors v Zebre Parma 19.35 UK / 20.35 ITA & SA
Saturday, April 2
Benetton v Connacht 12.00 UK / 13.00 ITA & SA
Vodacom Bulls v Ulster 13.00 UK / 14.00 ITA & SA
Emirates Lions v Edinburgh 15.05 UK / 16.05 ITA & SA
DHL Stormers v Ospreys 17.15 UK / 18.15 ITA & SA
Leinster v Munster 19.00 UK / 20.00 ITA & SA
Scarlets v Cardiff 19.35 UK / 20.35 ITA & SA
R13 (SA Derbies) – Saturday, April 9
DHL Stormers v Vodacom Bulls 13:00 UK / 14:00 ITA & SA
Cell C Sharks v Emirates Lions 15 :05 UK / 16 :05 ITA & SA
R16 – Friday, April 22
DHL Stormers v Glasgow Warriors 17.30 UK / 18.30 ITA & SA
Ulster v Munster 19.35 UK / 20.35 ITA & SA
Edinburgh v Zebre Parma 19.45 UK / 20.45 ITA & SA
Saturday, April 23
Vodacom Bulls v Benetton 13.00 UK / 14.00 ITA & SA
Emirates Lions v Connacht 15.05 UK / 16.05 ITA & SA
Dragons v Scarlets 15.00 UK / 16.00 ITA & SA
Cardiff v Ospreys 17.15 UK / 18.15 ITA & SA
Cell C Sharks v Leinster 17.15 UK / 18.15 ITA & SA
R17 – Friday, April 29
Vodacom Bulls v Glasgow Warriors 18.00 UK / 19.00 ITA & SA
Munster v Cardiff 19.35 UK / 20.35 ITA & SA
Saturday, April 30
Emirates Lions v Benetton 13.00 UK / 14.00 ITA & SA
Cell C Sharks v Connacht 15.05 UK / 16.05 ITA & SA
Zebre Parma v Dragons 15.05 UK / 16.05 ITA & SA
DHL Stormers v Leinster 17.15 UK / 18.15 ITA & SA
Ospreys v Scarlets 17.15 UK / 18.15 ITA & SA
Edinburgh v Ulster 19.35 UK / 20.35 ITA & SA
R18 – Weekend of May 20/21/22 (To Be Confirmed in January 2022 by URC)
Connacht v Zebre Parma TBC
Leinster v Edinburgh TBC
Ulster v Cell C Sharks TBC
Dragons v Emirates Lions TBC
Scarlets v DHL Stormers TBC
Ospreys v Vodacom Bulls TBC
Glasgow Warriors v Munster TBC
Benetton v Cardiff TBC