|Photo RWC2011: McLean Park in Napier hosted two RWC matches in 2011|
The most striking aspect of CONSUR´s announcement of the dates for the 2014 edition of the Rugby Championship was the format. The same four teams will play each other in the same order with Argentina yet again facing South Africa in an away match to begin its campaign. While South Africa hosted Argentina in Cape Town in 2012 and Johannesburg in 2013 the 2014 fixture is to be played at the home of Super Rugby side the Bulls, Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.
New Zealand and Australia will again face each other in the first two rounds but, unlike in 2013, The All Blacks will host the Wallabies in Auckland rather than Wellington. Changes to the New Zealand home fixtures for 2014 see the All Blacks set to face Los Pumas in Napier and South Africa in Wellington. The test against Argentina is noteworthy as New Zealand has not played ther since taking on Samoa in 1996. It is, in other words, the biggest ever game at McLean Park which has been unable to host a Tri Nations or Rugby Championship fixture.
Australia´s home fixtures are also changed with South Africa to play in Perth and Australia on the Gold Coast. In other words, the ARU is to utilize the same three venues against the same three opponents as it did for the 2012 Rugby Championship. South Africa, in contrast, will host its three test matches in the cities of Pretoria, Cape Town and Johannesburg which means the only change from the 2013 season is that of the Souith Africa v Argentina which was in Soweto.
|Photo AU Stadiums: Skilled Park on Australia´s Gold Coast|
Rumors have circulated that the UAR wants the Australian test to be in either Tucumán or Salta while there have also been calls made to take the tests to different cities. Argentina is certainly a country blessed with options. With a population of 40 million and a broad geographical distribution there are real options in the northern, central and litoral regions in addition to the capital city´s province. 2014 ought to see Los Pumas at different stadiums and they could be any of Buenos Aires, Córdoba, La Plata, Mar del Plata, Mendoza, Resistencia, Rosario, Salta, San Juan, Santa Fé and Tucumán.
La Plata could very well also be replaced, possibly by Buenos Aires with the test against the All Blacks being the ideal occassion to have Los Pumas return to the largest venue in the country, El Monumenal otherwise known as River Plate Stadium. Such a scenario would enable Salta or Tucumán to indeed host the Wallabies while Córdoba or Santa Fé could possibly then be regarded as the front-runners to host the Springboks.
A decision will come in due course. Before the venues are confirmed the UAR will have a new president in 2014 and official announcements will also be made regarding Los Pampas XV in the Pacific Cup and the incoming tours of Ireland and Scotland in June.
2014 Rugby Championship
Round One - August 16
Australia v New Zealand, AMI Stadium, Sydney
South Africa v Argentina, Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Round Two August 23
New Zealand v Australia, Eden Park, Auckland
Argentina v South Africa, Venue TBA
Round Three - September 6
New Zealand v Argentina, McLean Park, Napier
Australia v South Africa, Patersons Stadium, Perth
Round Four - September 13
New Zealand v South Africa, Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Australia v Argentina, Skilled Park, Gold Coast
Round Five - September 27
South Africa v Australia, Newlands, Cape Town
Argentina v New Zealand, Venue TBA
Round Six - October 6
South Africa v New Zealand, Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Argentina v Australia, Venue TBA