SANZAAR confirmed the 12-match schedule for the Castle Lager Rugby Championship on Thursday, with an innovative ‘mini-tour’ format introduced in what is a departure from the previous home and away structure that has been in place since 2012 when Argentina joined the Springboks, Australia and New Zealand to create a four-team competition.
Each team will still play six matches – three home and three away – facing each team twice. However, each team will host a two-match tour, will play an away two-match tour and a one-match home and away series against the third team.
This year, the Boks kick off the competition with two matches against New Zealand in South Africa, while the All Blacks will host Argentina for two consecutive Tests, the Boks will play two away in Australia, and the Wallabies will play twice in South America.
This format will see the two-match ‘mini tour’ home and away hosting rotate over a two-year period. Australia and New Zealand will always play a split home and away series, as will South Africa and Argentina.
The mini-tour concept is locked in until the end of 2025 and SANZAAR and the national unions believe this new format will excite fans by bringing back rugby’s traditional touring values and make for an even more exciting Championship. The format will also reduce the travel component, therefore, alleviating player welfare concerns and the amount of travel teams have to undertake.
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The Castle Lager Rugby Championship kicks off with a clash of the titans when the Boks host 2021 champions New Zealand on 6 August in Nelspruit, and 13 August in Johannesburg. At the same time, Argentina will host Australia in Mendoza and San Juan.
SANZAAR CEO Brendan Morris said: “The Rugby Championship is one of world rugby’s premier tournaments and sees four of the top eight international teams go toe-to-toe each year.
“The tournament has proved to be an important stepping stone to Rugby World Cup success for southern hemisphere teams but there is always room for improvement and innovation and the agreed move to a mini-tour concept by all stakeholders is an exciting one.”
“It reinstates the touring traditions of rugby which previously have been an integral part of our game and will prove popular we believe with players, fans and broadcasters alike. Feedback from the teams has been very positive and the enthusiasm for the new concept is sure to build as we get nearer to the kick-off.
“This year also sees the long-awaited return of The Rugby Championship to all our participating territories as over the last few years we have had, for obvious reasons, pandemic restrictions placed on travel and player movements. This year we are fully operational in Australia, Argentina, South Africa and New Zealand which is fantastic for the tournament,” added Morris.