South Africa’s four Vodacom Super Rugby franchises are set to join an expanded PRO14 competition, while the Cheetahs could enter a newly-proposed Super 8 tournament, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
For all intents and purposes, the future of the Cheetahs was one of the items on the agenda when SA Rugby held its general council meeting on Tuesday to map out plans for competitions going forward, and which teams would be involved.
Whispers have grown in recent weeks to suggest plans were under way to involve four South African teams in the PRO Rugby competition, with the Stormers, Sharks, Vodacom Bulls and Lions widely expected to head north.
With the Southern Kings placed in liquidation, the franchise will not be able to participate in any competition for the foreseeable future, while the Cheetahs were widely rumoured to also face the cut.
Just last week, PRO14 Rugby confirmed it was in ‘early discussions’ with SA Rugby about potentially expanding the tournament to include more South African franchises from 2021.
‘SA Rugby’s long-standing commitments are to field two teams in the PRO14 and in light of the withdrawal of the Southern Kings, discussions are ongoing about fulfilling this agreement from 2021 using a replacement team from its current professional franchises,’ a statement read.
‘Additionally, both PRO14 Rugby and SA Rugby are in early discussions about potentially expanding the tournament and deepening our partnership to include more South African franchises from 2021.’
According to SARugbymag.co.za‘s information, the Cheetahs will not feature in these long-term plans, but have managed to ‘negotiate its participation as a fifth franchise in a Super 8 competition, with possible additional income’.
The Super 8 is touted to include two teams from New Zealand and Australia, and one each from South Africa, South Sea Islands, Japan and Argentina.
On Tuesday evening, the Cheetahs confirmed in a statement that they were ‘reviewing their options’.
‘The four metro franchises were voted in to participate in the PRO16 competition in Europe,’ the statement read in confirming SARugbymag.co.za’s information.
According to Harold Verster, outgoing managing director of the Free State Cheetahs, the Cheetahs ‘reserve their rights’.
The implications of the business model have to be assessed, while reviewing all implications before determining the way forward thereafter.
However, the alternative competition proposals are said to look fair and even attractive should all the details be confirmed.