Dan Sheridan/INPHO Leinster face Munster this weekend.
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Pro14 confirm that the South African teams are out of the Rainbow Cup

Tournament organisers insist this will not affect the long-term partnership with SA Rugby.

PRO14 RUGBY HAS officially confirmed that the four South African teams will not be travelling to the UK and Ireland for the Rainbow Cup in the coming months.

As reported yesterday, the competition will instead proceed with the 12 Irish, Welsh, Scottish, and Italian sides playing six rounds of games followed by a final.

The first three rounds of the Rainbow Cup will involve inter-provincial games in Ireland, with similar fixtures in the other nations.

Pro14 Rugby has still yet to confirm fixtures for rounds four to six of a competition it has now labelled “The ‘northern’ Guinness Pro14 Rainbow Cup”.

Meanwhile, the South African sides – the Lions, Bulls, Stormers, and Sharks – will play their own competition on home soil.

Pro14 Rugby said that it exhausted all avenues in an attempt to make the Rainbow Cup work as originally planned.

“In total, 12 venues across the UK, Ireland and Europe were considered as base camps for the South African teams to operate out of or to use as a quarantine destination before entering the UK and Ireland,” reads a Pro14 statement.

“SA Rugby also explored another four locations separate to this. Further, destinations in the Middle East were also explored as potential hosts for fixtures involving South African teams.”

However, plans could not be finalised due to travel restrictions and the Rainbow Cup will not go ahead as initially intended.

Pro14 Rugby insists that this news will have “no impact on the long-term partnership between Pro14 Rugby and SA Rugby” and said that details on next season’s competition involving the four South African teams will be “made public shortly.”

This season’s Rainbow Cup, meanwhile, will get underway this weekend without the South African teams.

Ulster play Connacht on Friday evening, while Munster visit Leinster on Saturday.

“A staggering volume of work has been undertaken to provide a number of proposals and options to accommodate this – all as we navigated the challenges of the second and third waves of Covid-19 as well as the South African variant which constantly changed the landscape we were operating in,” said Pro14 Rugby CEO, Martin Anayi.

“Among our unions, our own staff and SA Rugby there is no more that could have been asked in terms of designing plans that were medically sound, however, there has been no perfect solution found in time to allow for South African teams’ entry into our territories.

“Whilst the outcome is clearly different from what we had intended, our relationship and partnership with SA Rugby has been greatly strengthened and enhanced by this experience. We are looking forward to the two Rainbow Cup competitions and in due course sharing our intentions about our future partnership that will be boosted by the experiences and project-planning involved to this point ahead of the 2021/22 season.”

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