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19th Jul 2017

PRO14 set to be officially confirmed and Irish provinces to get their way

It's going global

Patrick McCarry

The finer details are still being ironed out but take it as given that two South African teams will soon make up the new ‘PRO14’.

South Africa’s Southern Kings and Cheetahs are set to be confirmed as part of an expanded league in the coming days, with talks still ongoing about how to accommodate the new arrivals into the fixture list. Dual conferences and last six knock-out stages are also on the table.

Both the Kings and Cheetahs were cut from Super Rugby, from 2018 on, and the PRO12 acted fast after the notion of bringing them on-board its’ European competition. The South African Rugby Union, it has been reported by the BBC, could pay up to £6m over six years to ensure the clubs’ inclusion.

Both sides played each other in their Super Rugby season finalé on July 14 but could be back in action as soon as September if the expansion plans are ratified by the PRO12 board. It would be a mercilessly tough turnaround for both squads, neither of whom made the Super Rugby knock-out stages.

There had been worries that derby games between Irish, Welsh, Scottish and Italian sides would be sacrificed but that appears to be unfounded.

Leinster, Munster, Ulster and Connacht are set to be split into two conferences but the full slate of interprovincial derbies will be retained.

Rather than putting the top three sides from each conference into a last six format, the conference winners would go straight into a home semi-final. They would take on the victors of a playoff between the second and third place team from the other conference.

It remains to be seen if the EPCR is open to allowing the South African sides entry to the Champions Cup, should they qualify in future seasons.

We will let you know the official news when we get it.

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