Springbok Showdown to kickstart South Africa's domestic rugby season

Lions star Elton Jantjies will be among the Springboks players to feature in the Springbok Showdown. Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images/Getty Images

South Africa's domestic rugby season will finally kick into full gear when a seven-team competition starts on Oct. 10, ending a seven-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

South African Rugby confirmed the move on Wednesday, with matches to be played through the festive season and the final on Jan. 23, though games will be played without spectators.

The country's four Super Rugby sides -- the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers -- will take part alongside PRO14 outfit the Cheetahs and Curry Cup provincial teams the Pumas and Griquas.

Teams will play each other home and away, with the top four in the table advancing to the semifinals.

The Super Rugby sides will warm-up for the competition with a double-header in Pretoria on Sept. 26, when the Bulls will meet the Sharks, and the Lions will play the Stormers.

That will be followed by a 'Green vs. Gold' clash in Cape Town the following weekend, when squads of 25 players will be chosen from the pool of players contracted to SA Rugby by director of rugby Rassie Erasmus and new Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber in a quasi-national trial.

The squads, to be coached by Springboks assistants Mzwandile Stick and Deon Davids, will be selected in an old-style 'schoolyard pick'.

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"This will not only be an opportunity to see the best of the best available in South Africa square off against each other in what promises to be something never seen before, but it will also provide the players with another valuable opportunity to shake of the rust and get the legs and lungs going after not playing any rugby in the last six months," Erasmus said in a statement released by SA Rugby.

"The players will be encouraged to showcase their skills -- individually and in their teams -- and while it will be full-on, we're expecting to see a highly competitive match of quality players against each other.

Nienaber is looking to build towards the Rugby Championship scheduled to be played in Australia from Nov. 7 to Dec. 12, as well as the British & Irish Lions series in South Africa next year, with the Boks having been inactive since their Rugby World Cup win in Japan last November.

SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux said that South Africa hoped to compete in Australia but factors such as international travel restrictions had to be taken into account.

"We're still not in a position to confirm plans for the Springboks, but it remains our wish that they play tests this year," Roux said in a statement.

"It would not only be great to see the Rugby World Cup champions in action, but it would also give the Bok management valuable preparation for next year's tour of the British & Irish Lions."

Fixtures for the local competition will be released in due course.

- Information from Reuters was used in this report