South African sides discover Champions, Challenge Cup opponents

GALWAY, IRELAND: October 01: Dejected Bulls players at the final whistle, Ruan Combrinck #15 of Vodacom Bulls, Chris Smith #22 of Vodacom Bulls and Cornal Hendricks #14 of Vodacom Bulls during the Connacht V Vodacom Bulls, United Rugby Championship match at The Sportsground on October 1st, 2021 in Galway, Ireland. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

The five South African sides competing in the Heineken Champions Cup and EPCR Challenge Cup found out their opponents following the draws for both competitions on Tuesday in Dublin, Ireland.

This is the first time South African sides will participate in both tournaments after taking part in the historic United Rugby Championship (URC) last season and qualifying following impressive campaigns.

FILE PHOTO: Vodacom Bulls players during a past United Rugby Championship match in Galway, Ireland. /Getty Images

URC winners DHL Stormers, who were drawn in Pool B, will face ASM Clermont Auvergne of France and London Irish of England.

Meanwhile, beaten URC finalists Vodacom Bulls were drawn in Pool A and will play former champions Exeter Chiefs and current Challenge Cup winners Lyon.

Another South African side, the Cell C Sharks, was also drawn into Pool A where they will clash with Harlequins and Union Bordeaux-Begles.

In the Challenge Cup, the Emirates Lions from Johannesburg, were drawn against Stade Francais Paris and Worcester Warriors in Pool B, while the Cheetahs will face Scarlets and Section Paloise also in Pool B.

The Cheetahs, drafted into the tournament as an invitational side, however, will play their ‘home’ matches in Europe.

The 2022/23 European rugby competition season will be played over eight weekends with four rounds of matches in the pool stage starting in December.

The EPCR, the governing body and organiser of the two major European rugby union club tournaments, said the exact dates of the pool stage fixtures in both tournaments would be announced in due course.

The finals of the Challenge Cup and Champions Cup will be played on May 19 and 20, respectively, at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)