Lancaster would welcome 'positive addition' of South African sides to Pro16

The Lions, Bulls, Stormers, and Sharks could join the competition from 2021 onwards.

LEINSTER SENIOR COACH Stuart Lancaster says he would welcome the addition of the Bulls, Stormers, Lions, and Sharks into an expanded Pro16 competition if the move is confirmed.

SA Rugby is due to meet today to make a decision on whether the high-profile four franchises should move from Super Rugby to the European competition from 2021 onwards.

South Africa has had representation in the Pro14 in recent seasons in the shape of the Cheetahs and Kings, although they will not feature in the new 2020/21 campaign due to travel restrictions. The Kings also recently went into voluntary liquidation.

0kJKM6Ob Johnny Sexton and Leinster could be facing Elton Jantjies and the Lions in the future. Source: INPHO

It now looks increasingly likely that the Bulls, Stormers, Lions, and Sharks will instead be integrated into the competition to take on the best of Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and Italy in what would be a major boost for the competition’s profile.

In the wake of Leinster’s Champions Cup quarter-final defeat to Saracens two weekends ago, there has been much discussion as to whether an unbeaten Pro14 season had prepared the eastern province to a sufficient degree.

While senior coach Lancaster doesn’t agree that the Pro14 left his side short, he did stress that Leinster would welcome the additions from South Africa if confirmed.

“I think the top end of the Pro14 is more than competitive at the highest levels, and I think our Pro14 challenge comes on the back of, you know, we won all the games this year and we often had to do it without the internationals, and this year it’s going to be even more true,” said Lancaster.

“The Pro14 season starts on Friday, we’ve then got an extended period of October and November with six international games, there’s an international camp, there’s an international break week so that’s eight weeks without the best players and then the Six Nations will be coming around the corner as well.

“So our Pro14 challenge is on two fronts – one, it’s when the internationals are away, and obviously as it leads towards the finals.

“But when you put the best Pro14 teams alongside each other and the best teams are available, I think it’s more than competitive.

“I know this year there were no Pro14 teams in the [Champions Cup] semi-finals and if that was happening on a regular basis, year in, year out, I think there would be an issue.

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“But that’s not the case as we know, if you go back to the previous semi-finalists.

“That said, without getting into the whole global club game debate, if the South African teams were added to the Pro14 or Pro16 or whatever, I think that would be a good thing, personally.

“I think it would change the dynamic within the league and for a club like Leinster, they’re exactly the type of games that we’d want to be playing in against the Stormers, the Bulls, the Sharks, the Lions, etc.

“So I think that would be a really positive step if that came about.

“But in the short-term, we’ve got the international lads available for these first two games but then we’ve got months, really, when there’s going to be 15, 16, 17 Leinster players away.

“It suits us well, I think, the model at the moment but a positive addition for me would be that change in dynamic and I think it’s probably ready for it.”

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Murray Kinsella

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