Four South African rugby teams will participate in a “PRO14 Rainbow Cup” tournament in 2021 together with 12 clubs from the Guinness PRO14 rugby competition.
The Vodacom Bulls, Emirates Lions, Cell C Sharks and DHL Stormers will each be involved in a three-game tour of Europe with the other 12 sides from Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales all playing in South Africa.
The 16-team tournament will kick off on April 17 and end with the final being played on June 19.
The teams will be divided into two pools of eight. Each pool will have two Irish, two South African, two Welsh, one Italian and one Scottish club. Each team will play one game against each pool opponent and the sides that finish top of their pools will face off in a knockout match for a place in the final.
The announcement further solidifies a move away from the Super Rugby tournament, which is run by SANZAAR, an amalgamation of the rugby unions of New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina.
SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux welcomed the inclusion of the four South African teams adding that the move was a step in a “new direction” for the sport in the country.
“After so much turmoil and uncertainty in 2020, the prospect of a return to top-flight international domestic competition is one to which we all can all look forward with real excitement,” Roux said.
Negotiations regarding a long-term partnership are underway and an update will be announced at a later date, according to Roux.
PRO14 Rugby CEO Martin Anayi said the tournament was the best pathway to introduce South Africa’s four major teams to northern-hemisphere rugby after long-running negotiations.
He added that the “innovative solution” will act as a fantastic build-up to the upcoming British & Irish Lions tour which will take place later in 2021.
“With a British & Irish Lions tour to come it is hard to think of anything better to whet the appetite than the best players from the Celtic regions competing against World Cup-winning Springboks in the Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup.”