Guinness PRO14 Expansion Confirmed

Guinness PRO14

Celtic Rugby and the South African Rugby Union have today confirmed that the Toyota Cheetahs and the Southern Kings will join an expanded Guinness PRO14 tournament in time for the upcoming 2017/18 season.

The addition of the Toyota Cheetahs and the Southern Kings will require the Championship to introduce a new Conference format as a league format is not suited to a 14-team cross-border tournament.

The Guinness PRO14 will adopt a two-conference model which will allows for the new clubs to be added into the Championship without need to add extra rounds in 2017/18.

Conference A
Munster (IRFU)
Ospreys (WRU)
Glasgow Warriors (SRU)
Cardiff Blues (WRU)
Connacht (IRFU)
Zebre Rugby Club (FIR)
Toyota Cheetahs (SA Rugby)

Conference B
Scarlets (WRU)
Leinster (IRFU)
Ulster (IRFU)
Edinburgh (SRU)
Benetton Rugby (FIR)
Dragons (WRU)
Southern Kings (SA Rugby)

– Each conference will contain 7 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 1-3 from each Conference)
– The top 3 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

South African clubs will not be eligible to qualify for EPCR tournaments at present.

You can read the full statement here:

What do you think of the expansion?

12 thoughts on “Guinness PRO14 Expansion Confirmed

  1. “South African clubs will not be eligible to qualify for EPCR tournaments at present.”

    Hmm. I would imagine that European Rugby (or whatever the body is called) would be quite happy to expand into the South African market.

    At least, rather them that the two Italian teams.

    1. IMO, it would be a travesty if the 2 SA teams were allowed to play in Champions and Challenge cup.
      Similar to the comments from some that the P12 should’ve focussed on the inclusion of developing European nations, the European tournament should look to these nations (Georgia, Romania etc) before anyone else.

      1. Wouldn’t disagree with that Jake.

        Do European have a stated mandate to promote the game across a wider Europe? I have a funny feeling that they don’t (but I may be wrong) in which case its hard to see that the commercials won’t take over, and drag in the South African audience. Eventually.

        1. You’re probably right when you say they don’t, I imagine this argument of promoting the developing European teams first is made more from a moral stand point.
          I read somewhere that there is the possibility of an American franchise joining the Pro14, replacing one of the Italian clubs, so again this would be an example where its all about the commercials.

  2. Not my thought, but heard it spoken today;

    Thin end of the wedge toward South Africa joining the 6 Nations???

  3. Interesting that the European Cup qualification criteria doesn’t mention having at least one team from each (European) country. So is it just top 3 in each conference regardless? Think that’s the end of the token Italian team each year!

  4. Great news but the inclusion of a Georgian team would have been beneficial to the development of that countries game.

  5. I find this expansion over complicated – 4 extra league games a side can easily get fitted in, and if more teams join you could make it a league rather than have the semi finals and what not. The South African sides coming in will be good, but I worry they may dominate the league, and as they can’t qualify for Europe I worry about how that will affect some of their matches.

    There has also been a lot of criticizing of the Italian teams. Personally I think the Italian sides contribute brilliantly to the tournament, especially now they are getting more competitive and winning games. Really it’s nice when your team can (usually) get an easy win over them, and in their other games you can root for them as underdogs.

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