The Cheetahs will start “reviewing their options” after they were booted out of the Pro14 competition on Tuesday following a meeting by the General Council of SA Rugby.
The Council voted in favour of the four local Super Rugby franchises – the Bulls, Stormers, Sharks and Lions – playing in Europe. They received a two-thirds majority vote from the 13 unions that voted (Border’s voting rights are suspended).
The Cheetahs though have been thrown a lifeline with SA Rugby ruling they will retain their franchise status to possibly compete in a Super Eight competition with teams from Australia and New Zealand, who will have two teams each, the Pacific Islands, Japan and Argentina.
This after the South African Rugby Union opted on Tuesday to explore playing in an expanded Pro 16 competition from next year.
SA Rugby will 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 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.
In a second decision the meeting determined the domestic and Currie Cup formats for 2021.
It will feature two competitions:
- SA Cup (working title): All unions (14) will be divided into two pools on historic log standings and contest a single-round competition to identify eight teams for a knockout stage of quarter-finals, semi-finals and final.
- Currie Cup: The four mooted Pro Rugby Championship franchises plus the top four non-franchise qualifiers from the SA Cup would contest the Currie Cup Premier Division over a double-round with semi-final and final. The bottom six SA Cup teams contest the Currie Cup First Division in a single-round competition before semi-final and final.
Roux said that SA Rugby remained committed to the Sanzaar partnership and participation in the Rugby Championship. “We will advise our Sanzaar partners of the General Meeting’s decision,” Roux said.
“We remain part of the joint venture and will pursue the ‘Super Series’ discussions in good faith.”