Pro14 champions back South African expansion

Reigning Pro14 Champions Leinster have backed the decision to add the four former Super Rugby franchises from South Africa to their competition.

Leinster coach Leo Cullen says that they hope the addition of SA Rugby’s heavy-hitters will improve the standard of the competition and help their side prepare for their European engagements.

Leinster welcome South African beef

The tournament has traditionally been dominated by the Irish provinces with Leinster leading the way with seven titles, including the last three tournaments in succession.

South African sides, the Cheetahs and Southern Kings were added to the Pro12 in 2017, and they competed in three seasons until their withdrawal from the 2019/20 campaign. Neither side made the playoffs during that time with the Cheetahs outperforming the Kings but failing to consistently challenge the dominant teams.  

The hope is that the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers will provide stiffer competition, while SA Rugby will want to see the teams qualify for the lucrative European competitions.

Cullen expects the additions to bolster the quality of the tournament which will be tremendous for all involved.

“It has to be a positive for the quality of the competition we’re in, for sure, because they’re four quality teams with unbelievably strong tradition,” said the Leinster head coach. “They’re breeding grounds for seriously talented players.

“They’re the world champions at the moment and how those four teams would have fed into that squad of players…so yeah, they’re four powerhouses, and what it’s going to do to the competition, it definitely beefs it up.

“Exactly what that format looks like, we don’t know, but the experience of playing those teams will raise the standard of all those teams playing in the PRO14.”

Pro14 champions begin their defence

Leinster will open the defence of their Pro14 crown in Dublin on Friday 2 October meeting the Dragons.

The tournament will not have South African teams for the 2020/21 campaign after the liquidation of the Southern Kings and withdrawal of the Cheetahs.

Cullen says his team will turn up regardless of the opposition in their bid to add more success to the decorated Irish province.

“It’s our bread and butter, you turn up for work and our job is to represent Leinster, it doesn’t matter who the opposition is,” Cullen said.

“We need these games because this is the day-to-day business that we’re involved in.

“I know there’s no supporters but there are supporters who’ll be tuning in on TV, we hope, and we’ve a lot of stakeholders involved. It means a lot to these people. 

“For us, our job is making sure we represent the province and the jersey the way it should be represented.

“We just need to make sure we’re keeping our side of the bargain which is providing a performance at the weekend that brings that level of intensity because that’s what we’re all paid to do.”

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