The voluntary withdrawal by the Southern Kings from playing for the remainder of 2020 is disappointing, but it is an outcome that has not been met by surprise by many Guinness PRO14 supporters. The decision to make the old PRO12 competition transcontinental in 2017 was never wholly backed by fans and there has always been a fair degree of scepticism. 

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Tuesday’s statement from Port Elizabeth has left the future of Kings’ participation in the competition in doubt, and there are still questions over the Cheetahs given travel restrictions in place at the moment. 

While the Cheetahs have enriched the competition with their home form in Bloemfontein, the Southern Kings have failed to make an imprint with poor performances and paltry match attendances. 

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England forward Courtney Lawes guests on All Access, the RugbyPass interview series hosted by Jim Hamilton

The franchise is only eleven years old and is still establishing itself, which is why it struggled to make an impression. However, the main reason why the Southern Kings have suffered such a demise are the strains put upon them as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Although these are unique circumstances, the chairman of the Southern Kings board, Andre Rademan, said opting out of any potential fixtures before the end of the year was financially sensible for a club that continues to lose money.  

“This may not be a popular decision but in the current circumstances it is the right decision,” he said.” This is obviously very disappointing news for the players and management who, like all rugby professionals, were desperate to resume playing. But the board believed that further investment in 2020 with zero commercial return would be reckless in the extreme.”

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While the PRO14 later issued a statement accepting that there would be no games played in the tournament involving the South Africans until 2021 at the earliest, a concerning situation given the 2020/21 season will start on the first weekend of October, this situation has only confirmed what many have fans thought about bringing South African sides into the league.

The term ‘PRO12’ has now emerged on social media from those who wish to see the league return to how it was three years ago.  

Furthermore, the notion of a ‘PRO10’ has even reared its head, as some are mooting the idea of also doing away with the Italian teams in the league and returning to the old-style Celtic League which was in existence up to 2010. 

The reality is, however, that it is likely that more South African sides (their Super Rugby clubs) will actually join the league – an ironic twist that has been discussed at length in recent weeks but is subject to more derision after recent events. 

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Indeed, the idea of a British and Irish league has also been mentioned on social media, but that would require the Gallagher Premiership to be on board with the idea, which is improbable. What is clear, though, is that there is apparent unrest at the state of the PRO14. 

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