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Pro12-linked Cheetahs and Kings officially cut from Super Rugby and ready for a new international competition

Who’s ready to follow your province to Bloemfontein?

Cheetahs players celebrate a try in Wellington this year.
Cheetahs players celebrate a try in Wellington this year.
Image: Photosport/Marty Melville/INPHO

SOUTH AFRICAN TEAMS Central Cheetahs and Southern Kings were ‘amicably’ ditched from Super Rugby today amid reports they will be added to an expanded Guinness Pro12.

An announcement relating to new international opportunities for the dumped teams will be made in the very near future, according to today’s statement from the South African Rugby Union.

Currently played between teams from Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Italy, the Pro12 have long made noises about expanding to new markets with the USA initially looking a likely new frontier until Super Rugby faced into a contraction.

The axings were expected as the Cheetahs and Kings had the lowest average attendances and poorest overall playing records among the six Super Rugby teams from South Africa.

The other “casualties” will be an Australian team — either the Melbourne Rebels or the Perth-based Western Force.

Rising costs, exhaustive travel across 15 time zones, dwindling crowds and TV audiences, and a hard-to-understand format are among the reasons for cutting the number of franchises.

Coastal Sharks, Golden Lions, Northern Bulls and Western Stormers will represent South Africa in Super Rugby next season when the competition shrinks from 18 teams to 15.

“I want to thank the Cheetahs and Kings for the mature and professional manner in which they managed the difficult situation,” SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux said.

“They took decisions that will not only benefit them, but also South African rugby in general.”

Kings host Cheetahs on July 14 in Port Elizabeth in what will be the last Super Rugby fixture for both teams, but they may very well be pitted against each other in a new tournament on the European calendar very soon.

“The board of the Toyota Cheetahs has reviewed the team’s future and is extremely positive about the prospect of appearing in alternative international competitions,” says Cheetahs CEO Harold Verster,

It will be an exciting challenge for our players, supporters and commercial partners and will be the start of a new chapter for rugby both in our region and in South Africa.”

Meanwhile, Andrew Rademan, president of the EPRU (which governs the region in which the Southern Kings reside) is also ready for a new international competition.

“We have enjoyed Vodacom Super Rugby but the chance to test ourselves against different opposition in different conditions is a mouth-watering one. We are therefore not opposed to joining new competitions. With all stakeholders pulling in the same direction we can bring success and excitement to rugby in the Eastern Cape.”

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AFP

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