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Rugby - South Africa to play only two home tests before World Cup

Rugby - South Africa to play only two home tests before World Cup
FILE PHOTO - Rugby Union - Autumn Internationals - Ireland vs South Africa - Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Ireland - November 11, 2017 South Africa head coach Allister Coetzee before the match REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne   -   Copyright  CLODAGH KILCOYNE(Reuters)
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CAPETOWN (Reuters) – South Africa will play only two home tests next year during a curtailed build-up to the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, with Johannesburg and Pretoria set to host the matches.

There will be no June international window in World Cup year and the Rugby Championship has been cut to three fixtures per side, with the Boks to open their campaign against Australia at Ellis Park on July 20.

They tackle world champions New Zealand in Wellington a week later, the scene of a surprise 36-34 victory for the Boks in this year’s championship.

From there they travel to South America to meet Argentina on Aug. 10 for their final game of the Southern Hemisphere competition, before they host the Pumas in a one-off international at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria the following week.

That is the final test scheduled before the Boks open their World Cup Pool B campaign against New Zealand in Yokohama on Sept. 21.

The Boks also meet Namibia in Toyota on Sept. 28, Italy in Fukuroi on Oct. 4 and Canada in Kobe four days later.

Twice World Cup winners South Africa have been fuelled with more optimism after better displays over the past six months despite only winning 50 per cent of their tests in 2018.

They had come off a barren two years under former coach Allister Coetzee, including a record 57-0 defeat by New Zealand, first home losses to Argentina and Ireland, and a shock defeat by Italy.

(Reporting by Nick Said, editing by Ed Osmond)

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