Pro14 coaches support SA expansion

Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill and Ospreys coach Toby Booth have both thrown their support behind an expanded South African presence in the Pro14.

Following SA Rugby’s general council meeting on Friday, rumours have grown that four South African franchises could be set to join an expanded Pro16 tournament.

While the four teams to represent the country in the PRO16 are yet to be identified, it is widely expected that the Super Rugby sides – the Vodacom Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers – will be the chosen ones with the Cheetahs and Kings, who are currently competing in the PRO14, likely to be axed in the same way they were cut from Super Rugby in 2017.

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However, SA Rugby could find itself embroiled in a legal battle if it does axe the Cheetahs, because the Free State union is contracted to participate in the PRO Rugby tournament until 2023.

Speaking to the Telegraph, Edinburgh coach Cockerill supported the idea of including more South African teams in a PRO Rugby tournament.

‘The South Africans have brought a good slant on the competition,’ Cockerill said. ‘If the four Super Rugby franchises join the Pro16 or Pro18 it would be a bold move, very much worth doing, that opens a passageway for things to expand due to what happened with Super Rugby.’

Meanwhile, Ospreys coach Booth said the Pro14 expanding to include a greater South African presence made ‘perfect sense’.

‘For me personally, it would be something that’s exciting,’ Booth said. ‘Playing different oppositions and in different places is why Europe is such an exciting competition because it is different from the norm.

‘From a spectator point of view, there is definitely merit to it and increasing the visibility of the Pro14 and the commercially around that makes perfect sense to me.’

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