More South African sides join the Pro14?
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: As many as three South African sides could be on the verge of making the switch to European Rugby.
According to a report in the Irish Times, Sharks are said to be eager to make the move and follow both the Cheetahs and the Southern Kings to the PRO14 for the 2019/20 season.
The Stormers and the Lions could well follow suit, which of those two would join first is unclear.
While, WalesOnline reported that South Africa’s franchises have grown increasingly frustrated with competing in Super Rugby alongside opposition from New Zealand, Australia and Argentina, even sighting the different time zones in the competition and the unfair composition of the conferences as some of the handicaps.
The South African Super Rugby franchises have also experienced a decreased in both television audiences and match attendances over the years.
Furthermore, a switch to the Pro14 could also curb South Africans from signing lucrative moves to Europe.
Prompting the move to Pro14 is the Bloemfontein-based Cheetahs' current success in the European tournament.
Seen as one of the weaker South African sides during their Super Rugby tenure, the Cheetahs have seen success in the PRO14, making it through to the semi-playoffs, before falling to the Scarlets in Llanelli.
The news comes as the Pro14 secured a new television deal which is purported to have brought rights revenues from $12 million to nearer to €30 million.
The current Super Rugby deal is set to run to 2020 when it is expected that the tournament could receive yet another major overhaul.
It is also likely that South Africa’s Super Rugby franchise could use a threatened entrance into the Pro14 and exit from Super Rugby as a bargaining chip in a bid to broker a more favourable Super Rugby deal.
Last week the PRO14 signed a ‘landmark’ partnership with Premier Sports and FreeSports to broadcast every game from the PRO14 live in High Definition across the UK and Northern Ireland for at least the next three years.
The agreement from the 2018/19 season means supporters in the UK, including Northern Ireland, can experience the PRO14 like never before with all 152 games broadcast.
Martin Anayi, CEO, PRO14 Rugby, said: "The arrival of eir sport alongside Premier Sports in the UK will be a game-changer for the PRO14. It is another bold step in raising our Championship to new levels and unlocking its vast potential,"
Meanwhile, it is believed Super Rugby bosses have drawn up plans for expansion of their own as a contingency plan should the South African franchises head to Europe.
Last week a document published by SANZAAR – the body which operates Super Rugby – was leaked to the Sydney Morning Herald touting the addition of an American conference to the competition.
Rugbypass & WalesOnline