The Guinness Pro14 has confirmed that it has begun discussions with SA Rugby about a possible future expansion to include more South African franchises.
The talks could see high profile teams like the high-profile Stormers, Lions, Sharks, and Bulls – who have been playing in Super Rugby – to participate in regular competition with the Irish provinces, as well as the Italian, Scottish, and Welsh sides.
Pro14 Rugby also confirmed that the existing South African franchises, the Cheetahs and Kings, will not feature in the opening half of the new 2020/21 Pro14 season, which is due to get underway in two weekends’ time.
That is due to travel restrictions in the case of the Cheetahs, while the Kings have withdrawn due to their crippling financial situation.
An official statement from Guinness Pro 14 Rugby read:
“On 25 August, Pro14 Rugby acknowledged that under current international travel restrictions it is not possible for South African teams to fulfill Guinness Pro14 fixtures until 2021.
“Pro14 Rugby welcomes the news that the South African Rugby Union (SA Rugby) has been able to arrange a domestic schedule for its professional teams and that this is the first step in the return of their teams to on-field action.
“SA Rugby’s long-standing commitments are to field two teams in the Guinness Pro14 and in light of the withdrawal of the Southern Kings, discussions are on-going about fulfilling this agreement from 2021 using a replacement team from its current professional franchises.
“Additionally, both Pro14 Rugby and SA Rugby are in early discussions about potentially expanding the tournament and deepening our partnership to include more South African franchises from 2021.”
The Pro14 season will kick-off on Friday 2 October with Parma hosting the first fixture of the term against the Cardiff Blues at the Stadio Ennio Tardini in Italy.
The Pro14 Conferences will remain the same as for the 2019/20 season in the upcoming campaign in keeping with their two-year rotation of the tables.
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