Pro12 release brief statement finally confirming talks with South African sides

After months of keeping tight-lipped on reports, Celtic Rugby say discussions over an expansion are taking place.

Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

THE ADDITION OF two South African sides to the Guinness Pro12 has been rugby’s worst kept secret over the last number of months, and Celtic Rugby has finally confirmed the competition is set to be expanded.

In a brief statement released this afternoon, Pro12 organisers said that “advanced and positive discussions” are taking place with the South African Rugby Union after reports yesterday suggested the addition of the Cheetahs and Southern Kings had been rubber-stamped for the new season.

The Cheetahs and Southern Kings were ditched from Super Rugby earlier this month as part of the competition’s reduction from 18 to 15 sides and it is expected they will become part of a new structured Pro14 from 2017/18 onwards.

While the Celtic Rugby statement doesn’t finalise the expansion or shed any light on the proposals, it all but confirms the media reports which have been circulating over the last number of months having previously adopted a ‘no comment’ policy when approached.

“Celtic Rugby can confirm that advanced & positive discussions are taking place with the South African Rugby Union regarding the introduction of 2 teams into an expanded Guinness PRO12 Championship,” it reads.

“Given the proximity of the 2017/18 season start, a final decision on this potential expansion will be confirmed as soon as practical.”

Under the reported proposals, the competition would be split into two divisions of seven teams with Irish provinces facing a trip to South Africa once a season.

There is no indication as to when a formal announcement will be made and when the fixtures for the restructured competition, should it be rubber-stamped, be released.

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