Cheetahs, Kings officially join PRO14

The tournament – featuring the leading clubs of Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Italy – has been expanded to incorporate the two South African sides which voluntarily withdrew from Super Rugby.

Picture: @PRO12rugby/Twitter

CAPE TOWN - The Cheetahs and the Southern Kings will travel into unchartered territory for South African rugby, they were officially announced as newest members of the new-look PRO14 competition.

The tournament – featuring the leading clubs of Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Italy – has been expanded to incorporate the two South African sides who voluntarily withdrew from Super Rugby.

The move is groundbreaking as it is the first time that a cross-hemisphere rugby tournament will be held.

The two South African franchises will play a schedule of 21 matches starting from September, with the final on 26 May 2018.

Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby, said the decision to accept an invitation to play in the northern hemisphere competition was a groundbreaking move that added a whole new dimension to the South African season.

“This development is as significant as the launch of Super Rugby itself back in 1996. It marks the start of a new adventure for rugby in South Africa with a number of exciting opportunities. It will not be without its challenges in aligning with a competition in a different part of the calendar and in very different playing conditions; but it is also a fantastic opportunity for South African rugby to widen our playing horizons.

Martin Anayi, CEO of the PRO14, welcomed both clubs to the championship and described it as an historic chapter for the tournament and also for the game of rugby union.

“The arrival of the Cheetahs and the Southern Kings marks a bold and exciting new chapter for the PRO14 in its goal to become a world class, global rugby championship. These are established clubs who already operate to the high standards demanded by Super Rugby and they will add to the quality of our tournament.

“Expanding the championship into new territories is one of our key goals in order to grow the tournament and unlock its true potential. Since the inception of the Celtic League in 2001, the Championship has embraced the concept of cross-border competition in countries that are rife with international talent.

The Southern Kings and Cheetahs will play a season of 21 league matches in the competition, with the aim of finishing in the top six to earn a place in the finals series.

The playing format is:
- Each conference contains seven teams with an equal split of teams from each union.
- Every team will play every other team at least once.
- Italian, Scottish and South African teams will play an additional derby fixture to even out the schedule (e.g. the Cheetahs will play the Southern Kings three times).
- The PRO14 Final Series will include quarter-finals allowing the top six clubs to reach the knock-out stages (teams 1-3 from each Conference).
- The top three clubs from each conference (excluding SA teams) 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.