A new 16-team United Rugby Championship will start in September, bringing together clubs from Ireland, Italy, Scotland, Wales and South Africa, after an agreement between Pro14 Rugby and SA Rugby, a- was announced on Tuesday.
The South African Sharks, Stormers, Lions and Bulls teams will join existing Pro14 teams Cardiff, Ospreys, Scarlets, Dragons, Leinster, Munster, Ulster, Connacht, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Benetton and Zebre.
The four former Super Rugby teams replace South African teams Cheetahs and Southern Kings, who previously played in Pro14.
Subject to the terms of the contract being finalized with European Professional Club Rugby, South African teams will be eligible to play in the Champions Cup from 2022/23.
United Rugby Championship (URC) general manager Martin Anayi said the new league “will begin to reshape the world of club rugby,” while SA Rugby boss Jurie Roux has described it as “a turning point in the history of South African rugby ”.
The competition format includes four regional pools of four – the two Italian teams and two Scottish teams grouped together in a single pool – with teams competing at home and away in their group, plus one match against each of the 12. other teams.
The top eight teams in a single table after these 18 regular season games will then enter a knockout phase, culminating in a grand final.
All points earned during the URC season will contribute to the regional group ranking, and the top-ranked team in each of the four groups will earn a Champions Cup place for the following season.
The remaining four places allocated in the Champions Cup will go to the four top-ranked championship teams that have not yet qualified through their regional pools.
“The formation of the United Rugby Championship will start to reshape the world of club rugby,” said Anayi.
“We are creating a league that embraces and celebrates difference, and where the only way to be successful is to match the skill and intensity of international play.
“The arrival of the elite teams from South Africa and the removal of matches from international weekends will make our league stronger at all levels. “
SA Rugby Managing Director Roux said: “South African rugby has envisioned a future aligned with Northern Hemisphere rugby for many years, and this announcement marks the arrival of that vision.
“Our teams will oppose the best clubs from four nations, rooted in the tradition and folklore of rugby.
“They will do it without having to cross time zones or acclimatize, while 100% of the games will start in prime time in South Africa. “
© 2021 AFP