The top clubs from South Africa will combine with the PRO14 teams to form the United Rugby Championship in September 2021.
A new era will kick off for South African rugby when the Sharks, Stormers, Lions and Bulls join 12 PRO14 clubs for the United Rugby Championship, which will start in September 2021 with a brand-new, world-class 16-team league.
It also holds the prospect of South African teams being eligible to qualify for the Champions Cup from the 2022-23 season, subject to the finalisation of contract terms with European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR), which owns the competition.
United Rugby Championship League Format
The URC will use one league table to rank the teams who will reach the knockout stages and compete to reach the title and become the champions.
Fixtures: The regular season of the United Rugby Championship will take place across 18 rounds, with each team’s fixtures comprising six home AND away fixtures against their regional pool opponents and 12 home OR away fixtures against the remaining teams in the league.
Irish pool: Connacht, Leinster, Munster, Ulster
Welsh pool: Dragons, Cardiff Rugby, Ospreys, Scarlets
South African pool: Cell C Sharks, DHL Stormers, Emirates Lions and Vodacom Bulls
Italian & Scottish pool: Benetton Rugby, Edinburgh, Glasgow Warriors, Zebre Rugby Club.
Final series/Playoffs: One league table will be used to rank teams and after 18 rounds the top-eight sides will qualify for the playoffs. Teams will be seeded from one to eight and will receive home advantage according to their seeding.
A full round of quarter-finals and semi-finals will take place to produce two teams who will qualify for the grand final.
Crossing new rugby horizons
This agreement will create a pathway for SA Rugby to become a full shareholder in PRO Rugby Championship alongside the Celtic and Italian unions. In a sporting landscape looking towards the post-pandemic future, this unification of north and south provides everyone involved in the United Rugby Championship with optimism for prosperous days ahead.
This accord also paves the way for South African teams to compete in European tournaments, with every team in the United Rugby Championship eligible to qualify for EPCR competitions.
In comparison to the PRO14 structure, the 18-round regular season in the United Rugby Championship will feature the return of a single-standing table preventing clashes with international weekends and leave little margin for error for those chasing the title.
Every game will count in the league, which will be further strengthened by an expanded knockout series aiming to deliver more jeopardy with a full schedule of quarter-finals and semi-finals capped by a grand final played at a destination venue.
The United Rugby Championship will set the stage where the diversity of playing styles, languages and fan cultures will clash across iconic locations in rugby heartlands week after week. The new league will also allow South Africa’s former Super Rugby sides to operate in a common time zone, which will help open up greater audiences across the league and increase commercial appeal.
💥 The United Rugby Championship will kick off a new era in September
💪 16 teams in a competition that is bigger, bolder and stronger than its predecessors
🗣️ “The URC will begin to reshape the world of club rugby”
👉 More here: https://t.co/aLOv4r6HTl pic.twitter.com/EenYg2mX4j
— Springboks (@Springboks) June 15, 2021