Setback for rugby in the Free State as Cheetahs to get Pro 14 boot, Newsline

DURBAN – SA Rugby has confirmed that the four existing South African Super Rugby franchises will join an expanded PRO 16 in Europe while the axed Cheetahs are set to join Australian and New Zealand teams in a new Super 8 competition.

The decision was taken today by the 13 voting member unions of SARU at a specially convened general council meeting to determine future competition formats in a rugby landscape heavily impacted by Covid-19.

The Border Rugby Union – which is under administration – currently has its voting powers suspended.

The meeting rejected the first option of remaining in a PRO14 format and leaving the Lions, Stormers, Sharks and Bulls to explore a potential successor to the current Sanzaar domestic format.

In a statement, SA Rugby said they would now accelerate discussions with the PRO Rugby organisers regarding South Africa’s expansion into the venture that represents teams from Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Italy.

The general meeting also opted to continue engaging with SANZAAR about entering a team into a modified “Super Series” format, on the proviso that a commercial model was developed to make their entry cost neutral at least, once agreement had been reached with SANZAAR.

It was agreed that the Cheetahs would be proposed as the South African entry to such a competition.

Setback for rugby in the Free State as Cheetahs to get Pro 14 boot, Newsline
SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux. Photo: Masi Losi

SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux said these developments were a response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the New Zealand Rugby Union’s unilateral decision to break away and form its own domestic competition or one involving Australia.

Roux added that New Zealand’s decision made it impossible to deliver the 14-team Super Rugby competition that had been agreed by the partners and for which five-year broadcasting agreements had been signed.

“Our members are excited about the prospect of closer alignment with PRO Rugby and seeking a northern hemisphere future, but we would not have been taking this decision but for actions elsewhere,” said Roux.

Mike Greenaway