The Bok Stops Here
3rd March 2010, 12:13 pm By Principality Stadium
A showcase international rematch of the first game ever played at the Millennium Stadium will take place this June when Wales play South Africa in a specially arranged celebration fixture (2.30pm).
The World Champions from the southern hemisphere will line up against the Red Dragons on June 5 as the WRU put midsummer international rugby firmly back onto the sporting calendar in Wales.
Welsh fans still cherish the memory of the June 26 1999 stadium opener when Wales achieved their only victory over South Africa by 29 points to 19.
Although Wales have not registered a win over the ‘Boks since then, Warren Gatland’s team are still determined to write their own names in the history books against the world champions.
June 2010 will also be a unique opportunity for Welsh fans to see the summer tour squad put through their paces at home before jetting off to New Zealand.
The day after taking on the South Africans Wales will fly south for two Test matches against the All Blacks on June 19 and 26.
The June 5 Test match will be the first opportunity under the new WRU Participation Agreement with the four Regions for Wales to play an extra match at the Millennium Stadium in June before embarking on the summer tour.
This could now become a regular feature for the fans to look forward to as the games will provide a springboard for Wales to set off on rugby visits around the world.
The fixture against South Africa was brokered by the Welsh Rugby Union to deliver on a promise that Wales will face the best teams in world rugby as they build towards the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
Securing the Springboks’ fixture means that Wales will now play three Tests against two of the most powerful teams in world rugby in the space of one month.
As current world champions the Springboks always prove a massive draw at the Millennium Stadium for their powerful brand of winning rugby.
They will take the field against Wales one week before playing France in a tough summer schedule for the Springboks.
The Welsh Rugby Union is planning to ensure the June 5 encounter is a fanfare for the international game by focusing on the role the Millennium Stadium has played in delivering elite sport to a worldwide audience.
On June 5 the echoes of 1999 will also ring loud for some members of the Welsh national squad who played a vital role in delivering the famous Wales victory in 1999.
Wales assistant coach Rob Howley played scrum half that day alongside Wales kicking coach Neil Jenkins who slotted over five penalties and two conversions in that game to add to the tries from Mark Taylor and Gareth Thomas.
Nowadays, every fixture between Wales and South Africa has an even sharper edge because both teams are competing for the Prince William Cup, which was launched in 2007.
With so much at stake the Welsh Rugby Union is currently drawing up the plans to turn June 5 into a summer celebration of Wales’ national sport.
Plans for the day will be revealed over the months ahead so that Welsh supporters can arrange to get to the Millennium Stadium in plenty of time.
The Group Chief Executive of the Welsh Rugby Union, Roger Lewis, and WRU Chairman, David Pickering, made a whistlestop visit to Cape Town in South Africa just days before the Wales v Scotland international to close the agreement for the special game.
Roger Lewis said: "I am delighted the Springboks have agreed to come to Wales in June to celebrate 10 great seasons of rugby at the Millennium Stadium.
"It shows how much respect the South Africans have for Wales in that they are prepared to break new ground in agreeing to this fixture.
"This will undoubtedly be the showcase rugby occasion of the summer in the northern hemisphere and is a great coup for Wales.
"The Millennium Stadium crowd will also be able to give Wales a rousing send off for their summer tour to New Zealand.
"We are now seriously building towards next year’s Rugby World Cup and Welsh fans can be certain that our international fixture list from now on will fully reflect the importance of that process.
"Warren Gatland wants his team to face the best and we have worked tirelessly to ensure we deliver on that wish in the months ahead.
"There is something very special about Wales versus South Africa and the two nations have enjoyed more than 100 years of rugby rivalry.
"It is therefore truly fitting that we celebrate 10 seasons of international rugby at the Millennium Stadium by welcoming the Springboks to Wales."
David Pickering added: "I would personally like to sincerely thank the South African president Oregan Hoskins for the great support he has given us in enabling this memorable 10th anniversary fixture to take place. I was fortunate enough to be team manager in 1999 when for the first time in our history we beat the Springboks. We wait with eager anticipating for this memorable date.
"South Africa is a truly great rugby nation and the sporting rivalry we enjoy will give a special resonance to this fixture on June 5.
"It will be a fantastic sporting occasion and both teams will be fully aware of the importance of gaining ground in their build-up to next year’s Rugby World Cup.
"Down the years there have been some fabulous encounters and with the Springboks currently the reigning world champions it could not be better.
"The timing of the game is excellent in that it gives our team a huge boost before they set off for New Zealand.
"June 5 will be a landmark day for Welsh rugby and a unique opportunity to see some great rugby action in the northern hemisphere at that time of year."
Mr Oregan Hoskins, president of the South African Rugby Union said: "Our rugby nations share a deep passion for the game, matched by few countries, and we have a long and rich history of meetings and June’s Test will add another chapter to that story.
"As we opened the stadium 10 years ago, it was only appropriate that the Springboks should be the nation to mark the anniversary with Wales.
"Wales were very keen that we should share this day with them and although it is a break with the traditional shape of our domestic season I am sure it will be a momentous rugby occasion – the kind of event that Test rugby is all about."
Tickets for the Wales v South Africa match will be offered to WRU rugby clubs and debenture holders this week and demand is expected to be high.
A pre-registration waiting list for the public to reserve any available tickets will also be launched at midday tomorrow (Thursday).
Before the RBS 6 Nations, more than 27,000 Welsh rugby fans registered their interest for tickets through the waiting list system.
All ticket information will be posted on the WRU website at www.wru.co.uk/tickets.
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