The Springboks will play all of their 2011 World Cup pool matches on New Zealand’s North Island, opening their campaign in Wellington.
The Boks face Wales at the Westpac Stadium on Sunday 11 September and stay at the Cake Tin for their following fixture against Fiji (17 September). They then head up to Albany’s North Shore Stadium against an African qualifier five days later, followed by their final pool fixture against the Oceania qualifier – likely to be Samoa on 30 September.
“Being based on the North Island for the entire tournament will be very convenient,” Springbok coach Peter de Villiers said.
“Our players are very familiar with Wellington and Auckland because they play there so often in the Super 14 and Tri-Nations. They are also very familiar with those two cities in terms of training fields, gyms, hotels, leisure activities and other infrastructure. The North Harbour stadium will be new to us but we will make sure that we check it out in advance of the tournament.
With regard to the Springbok’s opposition De Villiers said: “There are no easy World Cup matches as we saw in 2007.
“Wales have improved greatly over the past few years and we can expect them to get even better over the next two seasons, so it is going to be a very tough opening match. Fiji are also going to be difficult opponents as many of their players ply their rugby trade in New Zealand and it will be like a home game for them.
“With an Oceania qualifier still outstanding it is quite likely that we will have Samoa in our Pool again, which will also be a tough one. For the first time in our World Cup participation since 1995 we will play another African team in the Pool phase, which will be challenging.”
There is also a possibility the Boks could return to Wellington for a possible quarter-final as two of these matches feature the pool winners and runner-ups from groups that include the Springboks, Wales, Fiji, Australia, Ireland and Italy.
To allow for a global television audience, some late kick-offs were scheduled for 9pm and 8:30pm (10am and 9:30am South African time). Day matches kicking off from 1pm to 3pm – 2am to 4am South African time – are also forecast.
“It’s been an issue that has vexed us and caused a lot of discussion,” said Martin Snedden, CEO of Rugby New Zealand 2011, of the late kickoffs.
Chief executive of the IRB Mike Miller said he believed New Zealand was the best country to host the World Cup: “this is the spiritual home of rugby”.
“I believe it is the most balanced schedule we have ever come up with. We have reached a fair compromise,” he said.
Click here for the full 2011 World Cup draw