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SA Rugby votes to explore entering 4 teams into expanded PRO Rugby competition

The move means that the Cheetahs will miss out on a spot in the proposed PRO 16 competition, but in a statement the Free State franchise has negotiated its participation as a fifth franchise in a Super 8 competition.

FILE: SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - The SA Rugby Union voted on Tuesday to explore entering four teams – the Bulls, Lions, Sharks, and Stormers - into an expanded PRO Rugby competition while also retaining a place in a revised SANZAAR competition.

The move means that the Cheetahs will miss out on a spot in the proposed PRO 16 competition but in a statement, the Free State franchise said it had negotiated its participation as a fifth franchise in a Super 8 competition.

Managing Director of the Free State Cheetahs, Harold Verster, said they ‘reserve their rights’.

“The implications of the business model have to be assessed and the board will decide on the way forward,” he said.

“The local competitions are exciting and offers a good prospect because of the fact that it is a competition that all 14 South-African franchises will be taking part in, after which a Currie Cup double round, home and away, will take place with all eight teams.

"Free State Rugby will review all implications and thereafter determine the way forward.”

The 13 voting member unions of SARU rejected the first option of remaining in a PRO14 format and leaving the four franchises to engage in potential successor SANZAAR domestic formats.

SA Rugby will now engage in conversations with PRO Rugby Championship DAC about 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.

As for their SANZAAR participation, SA Rugby will continue conversations about entering a team into a “Super Series” format, with the Cheetahs being the preferred South African entry into such a competition.

“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,” CEO Jurie Roux said on the decisions taken by the members.

Roux added that the decision taken showed they remained committed to the SANZAAR partnership and participating in the Rugby Championship.

“We will advise our SANZAAR partners of the General Meeting’s decision. We remain part of the joint venture and will pursue the ‘Super Series’ discussions in good faith.”

The Union has also outlined details for domestic competition for 2021.

The SA Cup, which is a working title, is a competition that would feature all 14 unions.

The format would see them 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.

As for the Currie Cup, it will be contested between the four proposed PRO Rugby franchises plus the top four non-franchise qualifiers from the SA Cup.

They would contest the Currie Cup Premier Division over a double-round with a semi-final and final.

The bottom six SA Cup teams would then contest the Currie Cup First Division in a single-round competition before a semi-final and final.

SA Rugby President, Mark Alexander, said of the meeting, “These are extraordinary times, if this had been an ordinary year, we would not have had this meeting. But we needed to take radical steps to avoid financial meltdown because of the COVID-19 crisis.”