Eastern Province rugby has been given a big shot in the arm with the news that Port Elizabeth will host a test between the Springboks and Argentina on August 19.
The match will be the opening game in the Rugby Championship and it will be the fifth time the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium has hosted a test.
Last year, 42 000 fans watched the Boks beat Ireland 19-13 in Port Elizabeth, and South Africa will be defending an unbeaten record at the stadium.
In previous games at the stadium, the Boks beat the All Blacks and Scotland and drew with England.
EP Rugby Union president Andre Rademan welcomed the announcement by the SA Rugby Union (Saru), saying it was a major boost for rugby in the region.
“This is fantastic news and it is something that EP Rugby and the people of Port Elizabeth needed,” Rademan said.
“It will bring a financial injection and we ask people to appreciate the test being awarded to Port Elizabeth and fill our stadium.
“This is also a big boost for business after the bad news about General Motors. This is something positive.
“Everyone is looking forward to hosting them and I believe the Boks will win.
“If you look at the Kings and test rugby coming here now, there is a positive vibe and everyone must stay positive,” Rademan said.
Southern Kings chief operating officer Charl Crous said Port Elizabeth was a great venue for the Springboks.
“I think it is fantastic that we have been awarded a test match and that the people have an opportunity to have the Boks in the city,” he said.
“We are a great venue for the Boks and they love playing here.
“Our crowd sings the best anthem and the Springboks are unbeaten at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.”
Crous said the test was a big boost for the city and the economy.
“We can do with more good news stories and this is definitely one of them,” he said.
Confirming the home venues for the Rugby Championship, Saru announced that the Springboks would also play in Bloemfontein, for the first time since 2010, in a clash against the Wallabies, and New Zealand would be in action against the Boks in Cape Town.
After the Port Elizabeth test, the Springboks will play in Argentina the following weekend.
The Boks’ traditional tour to Australasia is in early September for matches against the Wallabies (September 9, Perth) and the All Blacks (September 16, Albany).
The Cape Town venue is dependent on the outcome of an application for a safety certificate in relation to the first-choice venue, Newlands.
Mandela Bay Development Agency spokesman Luvuyo Bangazi said the benefits of a test match were immense for the city’s economy.
He said details of the match still needed to be discussed with the municipality.
The agency is in charge of the stadium.
The fixtures are:
August 19: Springboks v Argentina, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
August 26: Argentina v Springboks, Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena, Salta
September 9: Australia v Springboks, NIB Stadium, Perth
September 16: New Zealand v Springboks, QBE Stadium, Albany
September 30: Springboks v Australia, Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein
October 7: Springboks v New Zealand, Newlands (TBC), Cape Town