With no formal approvals in place to allow the South African teams to enter the UK and Ireland for their PRO14 Rainbow Cup fixtures, PRO14 Rugby and SA Rugby will operate dual tournaments with no cross-hemisphere fixtures.
The full fixture schedule for the Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup, including kick-off times and broadcaster information, will be released very shortly.
This statement follows the news as reported by SARugbymag.co.za earlier on Wednesday that the Stormers-Sharks and Bulls-Lions clashes are now set to take place next weekend in a local version of the Rainbow Cup.
‘Despite a colossal effort, the South African teams were not granted the permission to travel in time to allow the PRO14 Rainbow Cup to be played as originally planned. Such challenges are not unique to rugby as many international sports have found the Covid-19 pandemic a difficult landscape to plan for,’ the statement read.
‘All options for the South African teams to travel to Europe safely were explored and exhausted by the league, this is due to the heightened restrictions caused by South Africa’s presence on the red list of the territories involved.’
The ‘northern’ PRO14 Rainbow Cup will still take place on the dates previously published as teams from across Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales aim to take upset eight-time title-winners Leinster Rugby. The fixtures for Rounds 4, 5 and 6 had already been scheduled and provided to clubs, but will now have the South African teams removed and kick-off times may be modified ahead of publishing.
The ‘southern’ tournament will be called Rainbow Cup SA and will include the very best of what South African club rugby has to offer: the Sharks, Stormers, Lions and Bulls, whose World Cup-winning Springboks are priming themselves for the arrival of the British & Irish Lions. These games will be available in the UK and Ireland with PRO14 Rugby’s current TV partners and full details of this competition will be confirmed by SA Rugby shortly.
ALL AVENUES EXHAUSTED
A wide stakeholder group, led by a working group between the tournament team at PRO14 Rugby and SA Rugby, produced a long list of various options for entry of the teams, base camps and high-standard medical protocols across the past four months to cater for different scenarios.
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. 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.
This process produced project plans for each venue to include suitable training and accommodation facilities and charter travel schedules under the constant guidance of a medical management committee, consisting of the PRO14 medical consultant, tournament staff and union chief medical officers. This group tracked the status of Covid-19 in the various territories and advised on the strategic approach to governments at all times.
Throughout this process, PRO14 Rugby has had great support of governments and health authorities in all jurisdictions.
NO IMPACT ON LONG-TERM PARTNERSHIP
This decision will have no impact on the long-term partnership between PRO14 Rugby and SA Rugby and more details about those plans and league structure for the groundbreaking 2021-22 season onwards will be made public shortly.