The PRO14 Rainbow Cup SA will begin on May 1 with two matches and run until mid-June following the release of the revised fixture schedule by SA Rugby and PRO14 Rugby on Friday.
The first game will see DHL Stormers take on Cell C Sharks at Cape Town Stadium and Vodacom Bulls will play Emirates Lions at Loftus Versfeld later in the day.
The second and third round of fixtures will take place on May 8 and 15 while rounds four to six will see a reverse of the first rounds of fixtures between May 22 and June 12, with a bye for all four teams. The details of the kick-off times for the reverse fixtures will be confirmed in due course, organisers said.
The regular points system for the Guinness PRO14 will be used where there will be four points for a win, bonus points for scoring four tries or more, or for losing within a margin of seven points or fewer, and two points to each team for a drawn match.
Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus expressed his hope that the confirmation of the start of the tournament will bode well for the Springboks’ preparations for the upcoming British & Irish Lions tour.
“We’ll have to wait a bit longer to face the best club sides of Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales, but in the meantime we’ve got a tough competition that will hopefully prepare our players for what promises to be a massive series against the British & Irish Lions,” Erasmus said.
SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux, like Erasmus, could not hide his disappointment about the failure of the tournament to kick off as initially planned, but was happy that the event will go ahead.
“It’s a pity we could not have the competition as we first envisaged it, but to see these four teams slug it out over seven weeks is sure to bring out the best in South African rugby,” Roux said.
The inaugural Rainbow Cup was supposed to feature the 12 European teams from the Guinness PRO14 and the four South African sides. However, UK officials failed to allow travel for South African teams due to COVID-19 restrictions forcing organisers to cancel any cross-over matches between sides in the northern and southern hemisphere.
South Africa is on the UK’s red list of countries in terms of COVID-19 risk, which meant players and officials would face tougher restrictions to gain entry into the country.