MELBOURNE: South Africa will start the Rugby Championship with back-to-back home tests against Argentina after the British and Irish Lions tour wraps up, Rugby Australia boss Andy Marinos said on Monday.
The Springboks and Pumas will then head to Australia and quarantine for two weeks while the Wallabies and New Zealand kick off their tournament with matches on Aug. 21 and Aug. 28, Marinos told reporters in a video call.
With South Africa and Argentina to play the All Blacks twice each in New Zealand after the Australia swing, the Pumas will be the only one of the four southern hemisphere powers without a home match in the competition.
"We've got an agreed structure," Marinos said.
"We're just finalising the venues."
Australia and New Zealand will warm up for the Rugby Championship with the first test of their annual Bledisloe Cup series on Aug. 7, Marinos added.
Australia kick off their international season with a three-test series against France starting in Brisbane on July 7.
The series-opener was shifted to Brisbane's Lang Park after an outbreak of COVID-19 in Sydney.
Authorities in Queensland state, of which Brisbane is the capital, reported two new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and ordered new social restrictions to start on Tuesday.
Marinos said he was confident Lang Park could host fans for the first test against the French.
A crowd of over 50,000 attended the second 'State of Origin' rugby league match between Queensland and New South Wales at Lang Park on Sunday.
To mitigate risk of COVID-19 infections, Marinos said the French and Australian teams would take a charter flight from Brisbane to Melbourne for the second test on July 13 and head back to Brisbane quickly for the final test on July 17.
France players and staff are undergoing a mandatory two weeks in hotel quarantine in Sydney, though they are able to hold closed training sessions daily.
Marinos said the French had been "very understanding" of Australia's COVID controls.
"They're certainly not immune to it - they had to deal with it during the Six Nations so they've been really fantastic to work with," he said.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)