The Springboks will play Argentina in their first game of next year’s Rugby Championship, the four-team southern-hemisphere tournament replacing the existing Tri-Nations.
An agreement confirming Argentina’s participation was signed in Auckland recently by the Sanzar Joint Venture partners after several months of negotiations with the Unión Argentina de Rugby (UAR) and the International Rugby Board (IRB).
The new-look tournament has been given a new name and a new fixture line-up with two Tests on each match day. Each participant plays home and away matches against each of the other three participants.
The Boks open their campaign against the Pumas in South Africa on 18 August before taking part in the first Rugby Championship match on the South American continent a week later. The match venues will be announced in due course.
‘The regular participation of Argentina at a higher level is long overdue and we are excited about their inclusion in The Rugby Championship,’ said Sanzar CEO Greg Peters, ‘Playing in the Championship will have significant benefits for Argentinian rugby as a whole and will bring new energy to the jewel in the crown of Sanzar.
‘The Pumas, as they showed at the recent Rugby World Cup, play an exciting and different brand of rugby to the other three teams, which will definitely add a new dimension.’
According to a statement by Sanzar, the new name of the Rugby Championship reflects its claim to be the ultimate contest, featuring teams that are currently ranked first, second, fourth and seventh in the world.
‘The Rugby Championship is an annual contest between the ‘best-of-the-best’ in world rugby – nations who have won six of the seven Rugby World Cups,’ said Peters.
Saru CEO Jurie Roux said he hopes these changes will result in a more balanced tournament. In the past, South Africa has suffered because of travel.
‘This is a significant moment in the history of Southern Hemisphere rugby and marks the launching pad to a dramatically changed landscape. It will add a new flavour and dimension to Sanzar rugby and offers the prospect of promoting rugby in other South American nations.
‘It also ensures a more logical and balanced Championship with fixtures and travel evened out across the region.’
The 2012 Championship will kick-off on 18 August 2012 and conclude on 6 October 2012. A Sanzar delegation will travel to Argentina in November on a fact-finding visit during which it will conduct venue inspections and hold discussions with the UAR, host broadcasters, sponsors and other key stakeholders to ensure the smooth transition from Tri-Nations to The Rugby Championship.
The Rugby Championship fixtures:
18 August 2012: Australia vs New Zealand, South Africa vs Argentina
25 August 2012: New Zealand vs Australia, Argentina vs South Africa
1 September 2012: Travel Bye
8 September 2012: Australia vs South Africa, New Zealand vs Argentina
15 September 2012: Australia vs Argentina, New Zealand vs South Africa
22 September 2012: Travel Bye
29 September 2012: South Africa vs Australia, Argentina vs New Zealand
6 October 2012: South Africa vs New Zealand, Argentina vs Australia