SANZAAR confirmed major changes to the Castle Lager Rugby Championship (TRC) match schedule on Tuesday, with four double-headers and eight matches in total now being planned for Queensland in Australia.
This is in response to the ongoing impact of the pandemic and the subsequent tightening of regulations placed on travel and quarantine by various state and national governments due to the latest outbreaks of COVID-19 in Australia and New Zealand.
Despite these challenges, SANZAAR has confirmed that eight matches of the tournament will now be staged in Queensland after SANZAAR and the national unions were able to agree to suitable travel, accommodation and quarantine arrangements as regulated by the Queensland state government.
No matches will played in New South Wales (Sydney and Newcastle), Australian Capital Territory (Canberra) or New Zealand (Auckland and Dunedin) as previously scheduled.
SANZAAR CEO Brendan Morris said: “We thought last year was tough when we had to implement a Tri-Nations tournament in Australia with South Africa absent due to the pandemic, but the current disruption caused by the ‘delta variant’ of COVID-19 has seen government authorities tighten up border bio-security measures substantially.
“This is totally understandable but after exploring several options, including moving the tournament to South Africa and even Europe, we now look forward with excitement to the remainder of the Rugby Championship in Queensland.
Indeed, I am delighted on behalf of the SANZAAR stakeholders that we can now complete this world-class rugby tournament.”
Queensland Sport Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said the Palaszczuk Government had worked quickly with SANZAAR to put in place strict quarantine requirements for the 2021 Rugby Championship matches to go ahead in Queensland.
“The four international Rugby doubleheaders to be played in Queensland will take place under non-negotiable Covid-safe conditions for the safety of players and spectators,” Mr Hinchliffe said.
“Queensland’s Chief Health Officer has insisted on stringent bio-security measures for the eight matches to be played in front of spectators at Suncorp Stadium, Cbus on the Gold Coast and Townsville’s Queensland Country Bank Stadium.
“Although there’s plenty for Rugby fans in Queensland to be excited about, I want to make it clear the cost of relocating and quarantine for the remainder of the 2021 Rugby Championship is at the expense of SANZAAR.
“While the relocation of the 2021 championship is a bonus for rugby-loving Queenslanders, we know this tournament will also be a bitter-sweet experience.
Many Queensland fans continue to be concerned for the welfare of interstate family and friends in tough, ongoing lockdowns because of the pandemic’s Delta strain,” added Mr Hinchliffe.
2021 Castle Lager Rugby Championship Match Schedule *
Round 1 – Saturday 14 August
New Zealand 57 v Australia 22 [Eden Park, Auckland]
South Africa 32 v Argentina 12 [Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Nelson Mandela Bay]
Round 2 – Saturday 21 August
Argentina 29 v South Africa 10 [Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Nelson Mandela Bay]
TBC: Australia v New Zealand: Optus Stadium, Perth**
Round 3 – Sunday 12 September
New Zealand v Argentina: CBUS Super Stadium, Gold Coast
South Africa v Australia: CBUS Super Stadium, Gold Coast
Round 4 – Saturday 18 September
Argentina v New Zealand: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Australia v South Africa: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Round 5 – Saturday 25 September
New Zealand v South Africa: QLD Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
Australia v Argentina: QLD Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
Round 6 – Saturday 2 October
South Africa v New Zealand: CBUS Super Stadium, Gold Coast
Argentina v Australia: CBUS Super Stadium, Gold Coast
* All kick-off times and match order to be confirmed
** Third Bledisloe Cup match – date to be confirmed