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Super Rugby alternative: European rugby competition beckons for Cheetahs and Kings?

JOHANNESBURG — Two media statements from SA Rugby have all but confirmed the widespread media speculation that the Cheetahs and the Kings will be the two teams scrapped from next year’s Super Rugby competition, and that both franchises will join an expanded Pro14 competition in Europe. For months now, the British media has been quoting unnamed sources and leaked reports which said the current Pro12 competition, which comprises teams from Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Italy, will be expanded to 14 teams. The reports said the Cheetahs and the Kings would be the two newcomers. Unlike the convoluted Super Rugby competition, Pro12 involves all teams playing each other home and away in a season that runs between September and May. It’s not clear if this will mean the Currie Cup season would be rescheduled to accommodate the Cheetahs and the Kings. For the players, this is surely a fantastic alternative to Super Rugby. Apart from the obvious advantage of not having to travel over time zones, the teams face world-class opposition from sides such as Leinster, Munster, Ospreys and the Scarlets. The prospect of retaining a berth in an international rugby competition will make it easier for the Cheetahs and the Kings to accept the disappointment of being dumped from Super Rugby. – David O’Sullivan

SA Rugby media statement:

The Toyota Cheetahs have opted for a settlement with SA Rugby regarding their Vodacom Super Rugby Participation Agreement. The Toyota Cheetahs did not take part in the criteria process as they had an agreement in place till 2020, but the Board of the Cheetahs have decided on an amicable settlement with SA Rugby.

This will allow the Toyota Cheetahs to explore other international competition opportunities, according to Harold Verster, CEO of the Toyota Cheetahs.

“The board of the Toyota Cheetahs has reviewed the team’s future and is extremely positive about the prospect of appearing in alternative international competitions. It will be an exciting challenge for our players, supporters and commercial partners and will be the start of a new chapter for rugby both in our region and in South Africa. Also, it will allow the Toyota Cheetahs to carve out a new and prominent place on the rugby map in South Africa as well as internationally,” he said.

The announcement was made before a Special General Meeting of SA Rugby in Cape Town on Friday which will formally confirm South Africa’s four participants in the competition next season. The meeting has been called to determine SA’s entrants to fall in line with a SANZAAR decision to reduce the competition’s participants from 18 to 15 teams from next season. The new structure will comprise four teams from South Africa, five from New Zealand, four from Australia and one each from Argentina and Japan.

An announcement on those opportunities for the Toyota Cheetahs is expected shortly.

Friday’s General Meeting will continue as scheduled as SA Rugby still have the constitutional responsibility to confirm SA’s entrants in the competition.

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The Southern Kings will embrace the chance to explore new playing opportunities in view of the strategic SANZAAR decision to revamp the Vodacom Super Rugby competition, the franchise and SA Rugby announced on Friday.

The announcement was made just before a Special General Meeting of SA Rugby in Cape Town to formally confirm South Africa’s four participants in the competition in line with a SANZAAR decision to reduce the competition’s participants from 18 to 15 teams from next season.

The new structure will comprise four teams from South Africa, five from New Zealand, four from Australia and one each from Argentina and Japan.  SA Rugby will confirm the four participants after the Special General Meeting.

The Southern Kings will explore multiple other international competition opportunities and an announcement on those opportunities is expected shortly.

Andre Rademan, president of the EPRU, said: “It has been a roller coaster ride for the franchise for a number of seasons but there is now a clear and viable way forward for rugby in the Eastern Cape to build on the foundations that have been laid – particularly in the past season.

“We have enjoyed Vodacom Super Rugby but the chance to test ourselves against different opposition in different conditions is a mouth-watering one. We are therefore not opposed to joining new competitions. With all stakeholders pulling in the same direction we can bring success and excitement to rugby in the Eastern Cape.”

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