Loftus Versfeld likely to be first stadium to welcome back vaccinated rugby fans
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Cape Town - Following the return of fans at Bafana Bafana's win over Ethiopia on Tuesday night, rugby fans who have received the Covid-19 vaccine will be allowed to attend rugby matches in South Africa.
SA Rugby announced on Wednesday that 2 000 spectators would be able to attend professional and club rugby matches if they are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, in line with the new regulations gazetted by Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa this week.
However, schools games are still a no-go area, as they fall under the auspices of the Department of Basic Education.
The first senior match that will have spectators is likely to be the exhibition Carling Champion Match between a team selected by fans and Kenya on November 6 at Loftus Versfeld.
South Africa's four United Rugby Championship sides, the Bulls, Sharks, Lions and Stormers, were scheduled to play matches at home on the weekends of November 26-27 and December 3-4, but those have already been moved to Italy because of Covid-19 travel regulations.
Nevertheless, Lions scrum coach Julian Redelinghuys expressed his joy on Tuesday at the return of supporters to South Africa’s stadiums.
Joy “MamaJoy” Chauke speaking on the return of the vaccinated spectators to the stadium for this evening's game between @BafanaBafana and Ethiopia. #FIFAWCQ2022— IOL Sport (@IOLsport) October 12, 2021
📹by @Mihlalibaleka pic.twitter.com/sR2xtaF4jU
“I look forward to having fans back in South Africa,” said Redelinghuys. “I think it will be unbelievable, and getting all these teams to come to us as well. But whatever is thrown our way, we will handle and control what we can control …
“It has been nice to play in front of fans and have people singing, even if they were singing for the wrong team. It will be flippen lekker to have our local fans and all the Lions fans to be able to come to the stadium, it will be great to have them. If it is going to be now in November, that will be fantastic, or if it is going to be later then we will have to wait a little bit longer.
“We are just grateful that we can play … it is a privilege and an honour.
SA Rugby added that provincial unions will be responsible for ensuring that the union, clubs and affiliated bodies adhere to the directions stipulated in the Government Gazette.
“This is very welcome news, and the first step to returning to having the freedom to sell-out venues on special occasions once again,” SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux said on Wednesday.
“It is 19 months since a fan was last allowed in a rugby stadium, and this is the light at the end of the tunnel that our sport has desperately needed.
“We trust that this initial allowance will increase speedily as the impact of the vaccination programme and the experience in other territories points to a further relaxation of restrictions.”