Confirmed: South African sides to join expanded Pro 14
Cheetahs and Southern Kings will take part in new competition with two conferences
The Pro 12 is to become the Pro 14 after it was confirmed two South African sides will join the competition. Photograph: Craig Watson/Inpho
Celtic Rugby and the South African Rugby Union have confirmed the addition of the Cheetahs and the Southern Kings to a new expanded Pro 14 competition, starting in the 2017/18 season.
The competition will take on a new format, with the 14 teams being split into two conferences of seven.
Sides will play 21 fixtures throughout the league season - facing the teams in their conference home and away, playing each of the seven sides from the opposing conference once, and then playing two remaining derby fixtures.
The new concept means extra rounds of league fixtures won’t be needed to be added to the tournament schedule.
At the end of the league season there will now be quarter-finals instead of a last-four, meaning six teams will enter the knock-out stages - teams one to three from each conference.
The top three clubs from each conference will also qualify for the Champions Cup, as well as the team with the highest points total outside of those top six teams across both conferences.
As it stands, the Cheetahs and Southern Kings will not be eligible to qualify for European competition.
Both conferences will contain an even number of sides from the five countries involved - two Irish sides, two Welsh sides, one Scottish side, one Italian and one South African.
In the new format derbies have been protected - meaning the four provinces will play each other home and away regardless of conference.
Fixtures involving South African sides will be played on Saturdays, in order to provide travelling teams with a seven-day turnaround.
Where possible, teams who have to play two fixtures in South Africa will play them back-to-back on a ‘mini tour.’
The fixtures for the 207/18 season have been drafted and are set to be confirmed in the week beginning August 7th once televised fixtures have been confirmed.
The Pro 14 - how’s it going to work?
- Each conference will contain seven teams with an equal split of teams from each union.
- Every team plays 21 regular season games.
- Every team to play each other at least once.
- All home & away derby fixtures will remain in place.
- Italian, Scottish and South African teams will play an additional derby fixture to even out the schedule (e.g. Edinburgh will play Glasgow Warriors three times).
- The Guinness PRO14 Final Series will now include Quarter-Finals allowing six clubs to reach the knock-out stages (teams one-three from each Conference).
- The top three clubs from each conference will qualify for the Champions Cup while the team with the highest points total outside of those six teams across both conferences will claim the final Champions Cup place.
Glasgow Warriors (SRU)
Cardiff Blues (WRU)
Zebre Rugby Club (FIR)
Toyota Cheetahs (SA Rugby)
Benetton Rugby (FIR)
Southern Kings (SA Rugby)