South Africa’s director of rugby Rassie Erasmus says the timing of the new Rainbow Cup competition announced today is ‘perfect’ as the Springboks prepare to welcome the British and Irish Lions next summer. The Guinness Pro14 and South Africa Rugby have today confirmed the long-anticipated news that four South African teams; the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers, will join the Pro14 in the coming months.

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The current Pro14 campaign is now set to end in March with a new competition, The Rainbow Cup, kicking-off in April.

The Rainbow Cup will see 16 teams divided into two pools of eight, made up of two Irish, two South African, two Welsh, one Italian and one Scottish club.

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Each team will play one game against each pool opponent and the sides that finish top of their pools will face off in a final on June 19.

And Erasmus believes the new competition is ideal preparation for players ahead of the summer British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa.

“The timing of the Rainbow Cup is perfect,” Erasmus said.

“It will finally get our Super teams back into international competition after a year’s absence and comes at the ideal time as preparation for the tour by the British & Irish Lions.

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“It will be a step-up from domestic competition and remind our players of the different type of rugby they can expect when the Lions are here.

“Our players will be facing many of the players that will be in Warren Gatland’s squad and it will be very interesting to see how our players adapt to the challenge.”

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber added: “Having coached in Ireland with Munster, I know what our players can expect, and it will be very different to Super Rugby.

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“The rugby is unbelievably tough and will ask different questions of our players. It will be a highly competitive competition and will be a real learning curve for our coaches and players.”

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