# big changes
Confirmed: SA Rugby votes its big four into expanded Pro16 as Cheetahs get the boot
The Bulls, Stormers, Sharks, and Lions are set to join the expanded competition.

LAST UPDATE | Sep 29th 2020, 8:06 PM

THE SOUTH AFRICAN Rugby Union has voted to move its four high-profile franchises – the Bulls, Lions, Stormers, and Sharks – from Super Rugby into an expanded Pro16 in 2021.

That move leaves the Cheetahs out in the cold after they had participated in the Guinness Pro14 for the past three seasons.

The Bloemfontein-based club will make way, while the Kings – now in voluntary liquidation – are also leaving the Pro14 as the four high-profile South African franchises get set to join from next year onwards in a huge shift for SA Rugby.

ruan-pienaar Frikkie Kapp / INPHO Ruan Pienaar in action for the Cheetahs last year against Munster. Frikkie Kapp / INPHO / INPHO

SA Rugby confirmed the vote at today’s special general meeting, where its 13 voting member unions made their decision.

SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux stressed that the decision to shift its big franchises into the Northern Hemisphere came due to New Zealand Rugby’s “unilateral decision” to proceed with a domestic or trans-Tasman competition with Australia next year, rather than Super Rugby as it existed pre-Covid 19.

“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 did add that it would continue speaking to SANZAAR – Super Rugby’s collective organising body – about entering a South African team into a modified “Super Series” format.

The Cheetahs have been proposed as the South African entry to such a competition.

Pro14 Rugby has been understandably keen to get the big South African sides on board to deliver a reputational boost to the competition, as well as making it instantly more difficult to win after Leinster have claimed the last three titles.

It remains to be seen exactly what format the expanded Pro16 competition will take, while it is also unclear if SA Rugby will push for its sides to be included in the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup too.

SA Rugby further aligning itself to Europe has long been mooted. The very different time zones involved in playing Super Rugby have been a frustration for supporters back in South Africa, whereas the Pro16 would be played in essentially the same time zone.

While Covid-19 currently means travel between South Africa and the Pro14 nations is not possible, there has been an indication from SA Rugby before that travelling to Europe is preferable to the difficult slog of crossing several time zones to get to Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Argentina in Super Rugby in recent years.

The Springboks are still set to play on in the Rugby Championship in the Southern Hemisphere, however.

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