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Pro14 open to further expansion but Pumas and Griquas won't be joining

Adding two teams to make a Pro16 is one potential avenue for the league in the coming years.

THE GUINNESS PRO14 remains open to further expansion in South Africa but that will not involve the Pumas and Griquas.

Fresh reports linking the Nelspruit-based Pumas and Kimberley-based Griquas, who play in the Currie Cup, emerged in South Africa over the weekend.

However, The42 understands that the Pro14 has no intention of bringing the Pumas or the Griquas into the mix alongside the two existing South African sides in the league, the Cheetahs and the Kings.

Isa Nacewa lifts the trophy Leinster are the current Pro14 champions. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Pro14 organisers are still open to the prospect of expanding the competition into a Pro16 by including two more South African clubs, but that would only occur in the event of two of South Africa’s current Super Rugby sides – the Bulls, the Stormers, the Sharks and the Lions – making moves to shift into the Northern Hemisphere competition.

Bringing two sides such as the Bulls and Stormers into the competition – with their Springboks stars – would ensure increased status for an expanded Pro16, whereas the under-resourced Pumas and Griquas would likely prove uncompetitive.

The South African market is an attractive one for the Pro14, given that the addition of the Cheetahs and Kings has already added €6 to €8 million in TV revenue per season.

The likelihood would be that if the competition was to grow into the Pro16, it would be split into four groups – the Irish provinces, the Welsh regions, and the South African franchises, with the Scottish sides and Italian clubs making up the final group.

Each team would play the other sides in their group home and away, as well as meeting the 12 clubs from the other groups either home or away – alternating each season.

While there would still be play-offs, it would mean a total of 18 regular-season fixtures, down from the current 21, and would, in turn, remove the current situation where Pro14 games occasionally clash with Test rugby weekends.

Tertius Kruger The Cheetahs and Southern Kings joined the Pro14 in 2017. Source: Charle' Lombard/INPHO

This would increase the likelihood of the big-name internationals being involved in a greater percentage of league games than is currently the case. 

The big South African sides are committed to Super Rugby until the end of the 2020 season under their current TV rights deal.

It’s understood that the South African sides would also want involvement in the Champions Cup – run by European Professional Club Rugby [EPCR] – if they were to make what would be a huge move in linking into the Pro14.

For now, there are no concrete plans in place for further South African involvement in the Pro14, which may well continue with the current system of two conferences of seven teams in the coming seasons.

The Cheetahs and Southern Kings are in their second season in the competition, with the former proving competitive and reaching the play-offs at the first time of asking.

The Kings, however, have struggled so far and have won just three times over the course of their two campaigns.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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