Celtic Rugby and the South African Rugby Union have today confirmed that the Toyota Cheetahs and the Southern Kings will join an expanded Guinness PRO14 tournament in time for the upcoming 2017/18 season. The agreement means that the Championship will take place across the northern and southern hemispheres and marks what has been described as the first phase of expansion as the Guinness PRO14.
The #GUINNESSPRO14 is officially here! 2 new teams, 2 new conferences, 152 games, welcome Cheetahs Rugby and Southern Kings for what should be the most exciting season yet.Check out the video for full details.
Posted by PRO12 Rugby on Tuesday, 1 August 2017
The addition of the Cheetahs and the Southern Kings will require the Championship to introduce a new two-conference format. Each conference will contain 7 teams with an equal split of teams from each union
- Every team plays 21 regular season games
- Every team to play each other at least once
- All Home & Away Derby fixtures will remain in place
- Italian, Scottish and South African teams will play an additional Derby fixture to even out the schedule (e.g. Edinburgh will play Glasgow Warriors three times)
- The Guinness PRO14 Final Series will now include Quarter-Finals allowing six clubs to reach the knock-out stages (teams 1-3 from each Conference)
- The top 3 clubs from each conference will qualify for the Champions Cup while the team with the highest points total outside of those six teams across both conferences will claim the final Champions Cup place
- South African clubs will not be eligible to qualify for EPCR tournaments at present
The regular season will consist of 21 Rounds, which is one game less than the previous format. These Rounds will be made up from a combination of:
12 Home & Away games in your team’s conference
7 Home OR Away games against each team from the other conference
An additional 2 Rounds to ensure all derby fixtures are played home & away (this means Scottish, Italian, South African clubs play three derbies)
The fixture list has been drafted for all 21 rounds, Rounds 1-13 will be confirmed next week (commencing August 7) after the Championship’s broadcast partners have made their selections for live television broadcasts and the clubs have been consulted.
Martin Anayi, CEO of the Guinness PRO14, welcomed both clubs to the Championship and described it as an historic chapter for the tournament as it begins the first phase of expansion.
“The arrival of the Toyota Cheetahs and the Southern Kings marks a bold and exciting new chapter for the Guinness PRO14 as a global rugby Championship,” Anayi said. “As a country, South Africa is a rugby powerhouse of over 55 million people. These teams already operate to the high standards demanded by Super Rugby and they will add to the quality of our tournament.
Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby, said the decision to accept an invitation to play in the northern hemisphere competition was a ground-breaking move that added a whole new dimension to the South African season.
“This time next year South African provincial teams will be competing in 11 countries on five continents. We believe the Toyota Cheetahs’ and Kings’ participation will be good for the competition and good for the teams.”
Bill Beaumont, World Rugby, Chairman said: “Following consideration of PRO14’s submission, including strategic goals and evaluation of the global rugby benefits, the World Rugby EXCO was unanimous in approving expansion.
“This approval was granted under the proviso that key strategic conditions will be met. This includes the implementation of a detailed player welfare plan, which we are delighted PRO14 are fully committed to. We look forward to the beginning of an exciting new chapter in the competition’s history.”
TRAVEL AND PLAYER WELFARE
In order to provide travelling teams to South Africa with the best possible preparation, games will be fixed for Saturdays. This will allow visiting teams to have a seven-day turnaround leading into these fixtures including five ‘clean days’ that do not involve any travel.
Flights between Europe and South Africa are overnight which will allow players to rest during the journey while training facilities and accommodation venues are up to the standards expected in Super Rugby.
For teams who are scheduled to play twice in South Africa, the aim will be for them to play back-to-back games on a ‘mini-tour’ in one round trip. Where the fixture list prevents this, games in South Africa for those clubs will be spread across a reasonable period of time.
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now