Reports suggest that South Africa’s four PRO14 sides could take part in next season’s Champions Cup, which kicks off in September.
According to French newspaper Midi Olympique, the current Champions Cup format could be renewed with eight French, Celtic and English teams and an added four South African franchises.
According to information obtained by the newspaper, the format of the next Champions Cup (2021-22) would be eight teams from each European professional league (eight from the France’s Top 14, eight from the PRO14 and eight from the English Premiership) split into two pools of twelve.
SA’s four franchises (initially due to take part in the Rainbow Cup) could therefore be integrated into the Champions Cup from next season. This, however, would be contingent upon decisions made by the constituent unions of the PRO14 to permit SA’s teams to qualify despite having not participated in the Rainbow Cup.
This scenario may be unlikely as it might require certain national unions to nominate SA teams above their own sides. However, inclusion in the Champions Cup was likely part of the original deal between SA franchises and the PRO14.
Midi Olympique suggests there could be a ‘mini revolution’ on the cards as conflicting interests come to a head over the coming weeks. SA Rugby and the SA franchises will be desperate to gain entry into Europe’s top competition as soon as possible to try to claw back some of their lost broadcast revenue.
Meanwhile, News24 reports that the Cheetahs in conjunction with SA Rugby are also in discussions to find a way into Europe. The Bloemfontein side was dumped first from Super Rugby and then from the PRO14 to make way for SA’s ‘Big Four’ franchises and have been looking for an opportunity to compete outside the republic since.
The Cheetahs were engaged in talks late last year about joining the Intercontinental Shield competition in Europe, featuring teams from Spain, Germany and Russia. It is understood that progress has been made on that front and an announcement could be made shortly.