The first “away” games for the Welsh regions against South African opposition in the United Rugby Championship look set to be played in Italy instead.

Both the Scarlets and Cardiff are due to travel to South Africa for back-to-back fixtures on the final weekend of November and the opening week in December.

Dwayne Peel’s Scarlets are scheduled to take on the Sharks in Durban on November 27 and then the Bulls in Pretoria six days later on December 3.

As for Dai Young’s men, they are down to meet the Lions in Johannesburg on November 28 and then the Stormers in Cape Town on December 4.

But there is a problem.

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South Africa remains on the UK’s red list in terms of Covid travel restrictions.

That means anyone travelling to the country has to spend ten days in isolation on their return home.

As such, it would be impossible for the Welsh regions to make their planned trips to South Africa as the quarantine period would leave them unable to fulfil their European fixtures the following weekend.

The Scarlets open their Champions Cup campaign against Bristol at Ashton Gate on December 10-12, while Cardiff are at home to Toulouse.

So it now seems likely they will face the South African sides in Italy instead, with that having been pencilled in as an alternative setting.

That way they would be able to fulfil both their URC and European matches, with no ten-day isolation required on returning from Italy.

Meanwhile, the South African derby matches scheduled for October 22-23 have been shifted to the opening weekend of the Six Nations (February 5).

It all means the four Super Rugby franchises are unlikely to play any URC matches on home soil until the new year.

After December 3-4, their next home games are at the end of January.

They are also set to be without their Springboks stars until the new year.

Once they complete their Rugby Championship campaign this weekend by locking horns with New Zealand on the Gold Coast, the ‘Boks players will then have some time off after their lengthy period in a bio-bubble.

They will then return to international duty for the autumn Tests, with their opening fixture being against Wales at the Principality Stadium on November 6.

A further break is likely to follow their three-match campaign and, with the South African franchises having no Christmas games, realistically it will be January before we see the Boks in the URC.

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