Cheetahs face Pro14 boot as Super Rugby franchises look North

The South African Rugby Union (SARU) voted on Tuesday to explore entering four teams into an expanded PRO Rugby competition as well as retaining a place in a revised SANZAAR competition.

The intention is to enter the four Super Rugby franchises into an expanded Pro14 competition while the Cheetahs will be put forward for entry into a revised SANZAAR competition.

The Pro14 is not long for this world

Having been liquidated the Southern Kings will play no further part in the Pro14, and it is unclear what the future holds for rugby in Eastern Province.

“A Special General Meeting of SARU voted on Tuesday to explore entering four teams into an expanded PRO Rugby competition as well as retaining a place in a revised SANZAAR competition.

“The four teams voted to potentially make the transition were the existing Super Rugby franchises – the Bulls, the Lions, the Sharks and the Stormers.

“The decision was taken by the 13 voting member unions of SARU at a specially convened meeting to determine international participation and competition formats in a COVID-impacted rugby environment. The Border Rugby Union – which is under administration – currently has its voting powers suspended.

“The new direction was determined by the SARU General Meeting as it is the highest authority in rugby. Among other things, it has responsibility for the approval or the amendment and rescission of any decision regarding the format, structure, competition rules and composition of SARU’s major senior domestic competition currently known as the Currie Cup or its successor as well as determining the SA teams to participate in Super Rugby competitions by special resolution.”

The end of Super Rugby as we know it

The SARU meeting rejected the option of remaining in the PRO14 format and trying to convince Australia and New Zealand to allow the four franchises to engage in Super Rugby or its successor.

This move represents a shift of priorities that has long been mooted and is likely to strengthen the financial position of South African rugby.

According to a press release from SA Rugby, they intend to accelerate preliminary conversations with PRO Rugby Championship DAC on SA Rugby’s representation in the competition. 

PRO Rugby Championship DAC is the owner of PRO14 which is a joint venture between the rugby unions of Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Italy.

CEO of SA Rugby Jurie Roux said the meeting and options had been presented as a response to the pandemic and the unilateral decision by the New Zealand Rugby Union to proceed with a domestic or trans-Tasman competition.

New Zealand’s decision forces SA Rugby’s hand

Roux said New Zealand’s decision made it impossible to deliver the 14-team Vodacom 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 Championship and seeking a northern hemisphere future, but we would not have been taking this decision but for actions elsewhere,” said Roux.

SA Rugby president Mark Alexander thanked the membership for its deliberations and the outcomes.

“These are extraordinary times, if this had been an ordinary year, we would not have had this meeting,” he said.

“But we needed to take radical steps to avoid financial meltdown because of the COVID-19 crisis.”

Roux said that SA Rugby remained committed to their SANZAAR partners and participation in the Rugby Championship.

“We will advise our SANZAAR partners of the General Meeting’s decision,” Roux said.

“We remain part of the joint venture and will pursue the ‘Super Series’ discussions in good faith.”

PRO Rugby Championship DAC have confirmed their interest in expanded South African participation in their tournament.

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