It’s official: the Cheetahs and Southern Kings have been axed from Super Rugby.
The South African Rugby Union (Saru) on Friday morning confirmed the two franchises will be “exploring other international opportunities for competition” after being sacrificed to accommodate the tournament’s strategic revamp from 18 to 15 teams.
It is understood the franchises will participate in Europe’s Pro12 competition.
A sub-committee comprising of the local Super Rugby teams’ chief executives had been tasked to develop a set of criteria to determine which franchises needed to get the chop.
However, that criteria wasn’t used in deciding the Cheetahs’ fate.
The franchise had insisted they had a legal argument against being eliminated as they had signed a participation agreement until 2020.
Instead, the Cheetahs board “decided on an amicable settlement with SA Rugby”.
“The board of the Toyota Cheetahs has reviewed the team’s future and is extremely positive about the prospect of appearing in alternative international competitions,” said Cheetahs CEO Harold Verster.
“It will be an exciting challenge for our players, supporters and commercial partners. It will be the start of a new chapter for rugby both in our region and in South Africa. Also, it will allow the Cheetahs to carve out a new and prominent place on the rugby map in South Africa as well as internationally.”
The plucky Kings, who have delighted all and sundry with a promising campaign of attacking rugby, had far less leverage to justify their participation.
Saru currently has to bankroll them after the Eastern Province Rugby Union (EPRU) was liquidated last year and have again suffered significant player losses at the end of this campaign.
But the Kings are still positive.
“It has been a roller coaster ride for the franchise for a number of seasons,” said EPRU president Andre Rademan.
“There is now a clear and viable way forward for rugby in the Eastern Cape to build on the foundations that have been laid.”
An official announcement on the franchises’ new adventure is expected in due course.
Saru’s general council meets later on Friday to confirm the Sharks, Stormers, Lions and Bulls’ continued involvement in Super Rugby.
The meeting is a constitutional requirement.