Durban and KwaZulu-Natal will go into mini-Rugby World Cup mode on Sunday when four of the world’s major rugby-playing nations descend on the region for the unique Castle Lager Incoming Series.
The Springboks will be joined by fellow Rugby World Cup pool members, Samoa and Scotland, as well as a rising Italian team in an unprecedented double-header rugby tournament.
All four teams will be in action at Growthpoint Kings Park from 14h15 next Saturday (June 8) when Samoa and Scotland open the six-test series before the Springboks begin their 2013 season when they clash with Italy (17h15) – all for the price of one match ticket.
The team invasion begins on Saturday when coach Scott Johnson and captain Kelly Brown lead Scotland into Durban and take up residence in Umhlanga.
At about the same time a full-strength Samoa side will be running out at Ellis Park in what is sure to be a daunting prospect for the MTN Lions in a match that will serve as a warm-up for the Pacific Islanders for the forthcoming international battles.
Then, on Sunday, the picture is complete as Italy arrive from Rome in mid-afternoon and Heyneke Meyer’s Springboks jet in from across South Africa to begin intense preparations for three weeks of rugby that will throw down a marker for teams as they look forward to 2015 in England.
The four teams will variously spend the week preparing at Northlands Primary School, Crawford College, George Campbell Technical High School and Northwood High School before doing battle at Growthpoint Kings Park.
“Rugby history will be made in Durban on Saturday when two full internationals take place at the same venue on the same day for the first, as far as we are aware,” said Jurie Roux, CEO of the South African Rugby Union (SARU).
“The matches have also been given an added edge by the fact that South Africa, Scotland and Samoa have all been pooled together at the Rugby World Cup in two years’ time. In no time at all we’ll be facing Samoa at the historic Villa Park in Birmingham and Scotland at Newcastle – just south of the Scottish border.
“I’m sure all the coaches will be looking at these games very closely, while a victory here will be a boost for any of the teams.”
Meanwhile, Italy, South Africa’s first opponents, will expect to build on their Six Nations victories over France and Ireland during the course of the Castle Lager Incoming Series.
“The series will be played on a log format – as is applied in SANZAR rugby – with the final matches at the end of the series dependent on log position,” said Roux. “Two wins will guarantee a team a place in the final but the final placings could come down to bonus points.”
The first round’s fixtures are reversed a week later when Test rugby makes its debut at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit with the Boks meeting Scotland and Samoa and Italy going head-to-head in the early game.
Tickets for the series can be obtained online as follows:
•June 8 (Growthpoint Kings Park): Samoa v Scotland; South Africa v Italy (tickets R450 or R160 for scholars) www.computicket.com
•June 15 (Mbombela Stadium): Samoa v Italy; South Africa v Scotland (R350 & R450) www.computicket.com
•June 22 (Loftus Versfeld): 4th v 3rd; 2nd v 1st (R350 & R450) www.ticketpros.co.za