SA teams have Irish sides spooked

For the first time, the giants of Ireland rugby are looking over their shoulders at the charging South African cavalry, according to MARK KEOHANE.

After a weekend of exciting European cup playoff action, the DHL Stormers, Sharks and Lions progressed to the quarter-finals of the northern hemisphere’s premier knockout competitions, where five South African sides competed with the best clubs from England, France and Ireland in the round of 16.

European Professional Club Rugby chairman Dominic McKay has attributed increased viewership and interest in the Champions and Challenge cups to the ongoing success of South African teams.

He lauded the impact of SA’s further involvement in the top flight of European club rugby after the local franchises’ successful inclusion in the inaugural Vodacom United Rugby Championship and on his blog, Keohane hailed the ongoing development of new rivalries between Irish and SA teams.

STATE OF THE EURO CUPS: Stern test awaits travelling SA teams

“South Africa’s move to the north initially caused a stir and the emotions were mixed. Some delighted in what the SA teams could bring to the URC and into the Champions and Challenge Cup, respectively, and others dismissed their value,” he writes.

“The latter were naive in their thinking. South Africa’s presence has added to the quality of all the competitions and it has also added hugely to the broadcast numbers.

“The decision to do away with the European Cup and rebrand it the Champions Cup with SA teams eligible has produced immediate results. It is a wonderful achievement for South Africa to have two of their three participating teams in the last eight, and it will be a case of when a South African team wins the Champions Cup, and not if it will happen.

“Ireland have been tremendous, at provincial and international level, and they have some of the very best players in the world playing across their four provinces. But for the first time the Irish, across the board, are looking over their shoulders at the charging South African cavalry, which can only be good for Irish rugby.

“Ireland and South Africa, at provincial and Test level, has all the potential to develop into the type of rivalry enjoyed and experienced between South Africa and New Zealand – and that can only be good for the world game.”

Photo: Steve Haag Sports/INPHO/Shutterstock/BackpagePix

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