The Sharks have welcomed an announcement that fans will soon return to rugby stadiums under certain conditions.
The South African Rugby Union (Saru) advised member unions on Wednesday that fully vaccinated supporters will be allowed to return to club and professional rugby matches while observing the prevailing health guidelines.
The Durban franchise said on Wednesday they were happy with the development as they have missed their fans since March last year.
Sharks spokesperson Novashni Chetty said all that’s left now is for the unions and Saru to discuss the actual dates for the return of fans.
“We are definitely excited about that, but we are still waiting for communications from Saru as to when we can open for fans and how we are going to do it,” said Chetty.
In a media statement, Saru said a maximum of 2 000 spectators will be permitted entry to rugby venues following the gazetting of new regulations by Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa.
The union said this does not extend to school rugby matches, which fall under the Department of Basic Education.
Saru will provide guidelines to assist with the management and implementation of the entry protocols to ensure the safe return of fans.
“This is very welcome news and the first step to returning to having the freedom to sell out venues on special occasions once again,” said Saru chief executive Jurie Roux.
“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 program and the experience in other territories points to a further relaxation of restrictions.”
The Sharks are currently preparing to face the Cardiff Blues in the last match of their UK tour on Saturday. Kick-off is at 8.35 pm.
But there are persistent rumours that all local sides will play their round five and six home fixtures overseas, as well. That is because until recently, SA had been in the UK’s travel red list and the organisers had already made plans for the matches to be played in Italy.
That could mean vaccinated Sharks fans will be able to return to Kings Park Stadium in Durban in February next year, according to the fixtures. Saru said the first senior professional rugby event to receive crowds in the country was likely to be the Carling Champion Match against Kenya on November 6 at Loftus Versfeld.
Meanwhile, young Sharks flank Dylan Richardson was named in Scotland’s 36-man training squad for the November Test matches on Wednesday. The SA-born Richardson qualifies to play for Scotland through his father, who was born in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Dragons v Stormers — 8.35 pm
Ulster v Lions — 8.35 pm
Zebre v Warriors — 2 pm
Benetton v Ospreys — 4 pm
Edinburgh v Bulls — 6.15 pm
Leinster v Scarlets — 6.15 pm
Cardiff v Sharks — 8.35 pm
Munster v Connacht — 8.35 pm.