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Dublin: 17 °C Wednesday 26 June, 2019
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Guinness Pro14 officially confirmed as Cheetahs and Kings join from South Africa

The worst kept secret in rugby was revealed today.

Southern Kings' Louis Fouche kicks at goal in 2016.
Southern Kings' Louis Fouche kicks at goal in 2016.
Image: Photosport/Joseph Johnson/INPHO

CELTIC RUGBY AND the South Africa Rugby Union have finally confirmed that the Toyota Cheetahs and Southern Kings will join the competition in time for the upcoming season.

The announcement has been teased for weeks but was only made official in a statement released by the newly rebranded Guinness Pro14 this morning.

In the statement, it says the new structure is just the first phase of expansion as the Guinness Pro14 “becomes a truly global tournament.”

New Structure

With the addition of the two new sides from South Africa, the tournament will take on a new structure, breaking the league up into two conferences:

Conference A

  • Munster (IRFU)
  • Ospreys (WRU)
  • Glasgow Warriors (SRU)
  • Cardiff Blues (WRU)
  • Connacht (IRFU)
  • Zebre Rugby Club (FIR)
  • Toyota Cheetahs (SA Rugby)

Conference B

  • Scarlets (WRU)
  • Leinster (IRFU)
  • Ulster (IRFU)
  • Edinburgh (SRU)
  • Benetton Rugby (FIR)
  • Dragons (WRU)
  • Southern Kings (SA Rugby)

Each team will play 21 regular season games — one less that the previous format — and face each other at least once.

The Pro14 also stress that they will protect derby fixtures and so the Irish provinces will play either other home and away.

For the first time, quarter-finals will be played, with six teams (three from each conference) reaching that stage and the top three teams from each conference will also qualify for Champions Cup.

The team with the highest points total outside of those six teams across both conferences will claim the final Champions Cup place.

The South African teams will not be eligible for the Champions Cup at present.

Player Welfare

Carl Wegner is tackled by Beauden Barrett Cheetahs' Carl Wegner is tackled by Beauden Barrett of the Hurricanes. Source: Photosport/Marty Melville/INPHO

In order to provide teams travelling to and from South Africa with the best possible preparation, all games in that country will be played on a Saturday.

This allows visiting teams a seven-day turnaround and have five days leading into the fixture involving no travel.

Any team scheduled to play twice in South Africa in the season will play the two new sides back-to-back where possible.

Reaction

In a separate statement today, Rugby Players Ireland said its members welcomed the expansion and that the organisation had worked closely throughout the process with the Irish Rugby Football Union.

Simon Keogh in his role as acting CEO of Rugby Players Ireland said:

All player welfare issues, particularly those in relation to travel and temperature, have been taken into consideration and, while further details will be finalised over the coming weeks, the newly-formatted competition will not compromise player welfare.

“The players are excited by the introduction of the two South African teams, and we will work to ensure that player welfare is at the heart of all aspects of operational planning given the short time-frame before the season commences.”

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Steve O'Rourke

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