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South African franchises eyeing up Champions Cup in global shake-up

Threat to Super Rugby has left four of South Africa’s teams in limbo.

Up in the air: South African teams like the Stormers (pictured) are in limbo.
Up in the air: South African teams like the Stormers (pictured) are in limbo.
Image: Karen Sandison/African News Agen

THE POSSIBILITY OF South African sides appearing in the 2022/23 Champions Cup is being explored, according to a report in The Daily Telegraph.

With the rugby landscape changing rapidly, the days of Super Rugby are numbered following the New Zealand union’s decision to quit the tournament and opt instead for a new-look Australasian competition.

That leaves four of South Africa’s sides in limbo, although no one expects them to stay there for long, with the Guinness PRO14 a likely destination for the Bulls, Lions, Stormers and Sharks.

Of even more interest is the potential expansion of the Champions Cup to include South African sides. Right now the Cheetahs and Kings (South African sides who play in the PRO14) are precluded from playing in the Champions or Challenge Cups but the Telegraph suggested the South African union is exploring the possibility of their sides getting an invite to club rugby’s most lucrative competition.

Hurdles remain to be jumped, though – namely whether the PRO14 extend the invitation to the Bulls, Sharks, Lions and Stormers – secondly whether the existing clubs in the competition would be happy to sacrifice European spots for new members of their league. Lastly, European Professional Club Rugby – the body that runs the Heineken Champions Cup – could reject the idea.

Boardroom discussions are ongoing throughout the world right now – following New Zealand Rugby’s announcement on Friday that they want to create a new professional competition based in Australasia, consisting of five New Zealand teams, between two and four Australian sides and a Pacific Island team, which may be based in Auckland.

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“There is a huge desire to have a Pasifika team involved which we think will be massive for the competition, popular with fans and is a priority for us,” explained NZR chief executive Mark Robinson. “As we know, our Pacific nations and Pasifika players in New Zealand have added so much to the rich history of rugby in Oceania and our game here in New Zealand.

“We’re very conscious of any teams coming into the competition, that they are highly competitive, they are financially viable and that they bring value that can attract fans and retain interest in the competition,” he added.

Rugby Australia released a statement yesterday saying they are “looking forward to working constructively with New Zealand Rugby in the coming weeks”.

RA chairman Hamish McLennan has gone on record to say his preference was for all five Australian sides to be accommodated in the new competition and has threatened to set up an Australian-run competition if a deal cannot be struck.

As for the future of the Rugby Championship, the annual competition between Australia, Argentina, New Zealand and South Africa, well who knows?  For now it is safe.

About the author:

Garry Doyle

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