There is an increasing likelihood the South African Super Rugby franchises could join an expanded PRO16 tournament in the first half of next year.
It has long been confirmed that the South African franchises – the Vodacom Bulls, Sharks, Lions and Stormers – will leave Super Rugby and instead compete in an expanded PRO16 competition from next year onwards.
This has come at the expense of the Cheetahs and Southern Kings, who have been involved in the competition since leaving Super Rugby in 2017.
With the Kings having gone into liquidation and the Cheetahs currently playing in the Currie Cup, there are just 12 teams participating in the current season, which started on the first weekend of October.
There has been plenty of speculation as to when the move could actually take place, especially as South Africa is currently experiencing a second wave of the Covid-19 coronavirus, which would make travelling between countries difficult.
This information has been verified by SA Rugby magazine, with this information suggesting the four teams have even been preparing for the possibility of joining as early as March.
It is unclear how the South African franchises would be worked into the current season and what would take place between the Currie Cup final on 23 January and the PRO16.
Ireland Rugby performance director David Nucifora earlier in December backed the South African teams to add a new competitive edge to the competition.
‘We think that Irish Rugby needs to be ambitious, we think that the PRO14 needs to be ambitious,’ Nucifora said. ‘Challenging our teams and challenging our players, and I think that’s what high-performing athletes want.
‘Sending teams, be it at full strength or teams that are sending down some of the younger players to play and tour in places like Cape Town, Pretoria and Johannesburg, playing full-strength South African sides is something I believe will hold the development of Irish players in good stead for a long period to come.’
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