The Vodacom Bulls fixtures for the 2023/24 Vodacom United Rugby Championship season have been confirmed, beginning with an opening-round visit to the fortress by Scarlets, on Sunday 22 October 2023.
Post the opening round, the Tshwane-based club will have a four-week-long European journey that will see them take on Ulster (Northern Ireland), Zebre Parma (Italy), Cardiff Rugby (Wales) and Edinburgh (Scotland). The herd will then return to base, first welcoming Connacht on the last weekend of November before ushering in the festive period with a tantalising derby against the Cell C Sharks at Loftus, the following weekend.
Thereafter, the competition will go on a break with the European season kicking off on the weekend of the 8, 9 and 10 of December.
After a two-year window of home or away fixtures against non-Shield opponents, the sequencing has been refreshed. The home and away sequence from this season will be reversed for the 2024/25 campaign to ensure a fair balance of home and away games against the same opponents over a two-year cycle.
In a new approach aimed at reducing long-haul travel across the league, the South African teams will tour twice rather than three times. This means a four-match tour to Europe in the early part of the season followed by a two-game tour after the Six Nations (a balance of two three-game tours will be implemented if future calendars allow for it).
Additionally, the earlier generation of fixtures will assist all teams in their cross-hemisphere travel with improved access to different seat classes and cost efficiencies related to bookings made further in advance.
The opening weekends of the Vodacom URC will see games played across Saturday and Sunday afternoons to avoid clashes with Rugby World Cup fixtures on Friday and Saturday nights.
With no November Test series break, Vodacom URC teams will take on a schedule of 11 consecutive weekends of rugby (including EPCR) – so January will also provide two relief weekends for teams to take a break in play and to accommodate traditional festive fixturing on December 26 (Tuesday) in Wales and Ireland.
Further efficiencies in fixture generation and grading have also been made possible due to the Vodacom URC’s supplier arrangement with Ligalytics, a German sports scheduling firm who work with many sports including rugby, football, cricket, basketball and hockey.
The league would also like to thank Dragons RFC and Ospreys Rugby, who both share venues with football teams, to allow the scheduling work to begin ahead of the publication of the EFL fixture list. This has allowed for a considerable amount of progress to occur much earlier than in previous years and to deliver earlier publishing of the fixtures.
Also, as in the previous season, all derby games in Wales will occur in afternoon or late afternoon slots thanks to the support of all broadcasters involved.
VODACOM BULLS OPENING FIVE FIXTURES:
R1 – Sunday, October 22
Vodacom Bulls v Scarlets | Kickoff: 15:00
R2 – Sunday, October 29
Ulster v Vodacom Bulls | Kickoff: 18:00
R3 – Saturday, November 4
Zebre Parma v Vodacom Bulls | Kickoff: 14:00
R4 – Friday, November 10
Cardiff Rugby v Vodacom Bulls | Kickoff: 21:35
R5 – Friday, November 17
Edinburgh v Vodacom Bulls | Kickoff: 21:35