SA Rugby has confirmed the existing Vodacom Super Rugby franchises are in line to make the transition into an expanded PRO Rugby competition.
A special general meeting of the South African Rugby Union (Saru) voted on Tuesday to explore entering four teams into the northern- hemisphere competition, while also retaining a place in a revised Sanzaar competition.
The four teams voted to potentially make the transition were the Vodacom Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers.
The decision was taken by the 13 voting member unions of Saru at a specially-convened meeting to determine international participation and competition formats in a Covid-19-impacted rugby environment. The Border Rugby Union – which is under administration – currently has its voting powers suspended.
The meeting rejected the first option of remaining in a PRO14 format and leaving four franchises to engage in potential successor Sanzaar domestic formats.
SA Rugby would now accelerate preliminary conversations with PRO Rugby Championship DAC on SA Rugby’s representation in the competition. PRO Rugby Championship DAC is the owner of PRO14 and is a joint venture between the rugby unions of Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Italy.
The general meeting also opted to continue conversations with Sanzaar about entering a team into a modified ‘Super Series’ format, on the proviso that a commercial model was developed to make their entry cost neutral at least, once agreement had been reached with Sanzaar.
The meeting agreed that the Cheetahs would be proposed as the South African entry to such a competition.
Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby, said the meeting and options had been presented as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the unilateral decision by the New Zealand Rugby Union to proceed with a domestic or trans-Tasman competition.
Roux said New Zealand’s decision made it impossible to deliver the 14-team Vodacom Super Rugby competition that had been agreed by the partners and for which five-year broadcasting agreements had been signed.
‘Our members are excited about the prospect of closer alignment with PRO Rugby Championship and seeking a northern-hemisphere future, but we would not have been taking this decision but for actions elsewhere,’ said Roux.
The new direction was determined by the Saru general meeting as it is the highest authority in rugby.
Among other things, it has responsibility for the ‘approval or the amendment and rescission of any decision regarding the format, structure, competition rules and composition of Saru’s major senior domestic competition currently known as the Currie Cup or its successor as well as determining the SA teams to participate in Super Rugby competitions by special resolution’.