Cape Town - The Currie Cup format is reportedly set to be changed for the 2019 edition.
The Sunday Times reported over the weekend that the 2019 competition would start earlier, with teams to also be split into two pools.
This season the seven Premier Division teams played a single round of matches before the playoffs.
The biggest benefactors of this proposed change appear to be the Cheetahs, who struggled in the past two Currie Cups as it had overlapped with their PRO14 participation.
The report also indicated that Eastern Province would return to the top division.
Cheetahs coach Franco Smith shed more light on the format in an interview with the Sunday newspaper.
“From what I understand, we will play in two pools. The Super Rugby franchises will compete in one pool, which gives the whole thing a different look. The PRO14 franchises will play in the other, so that will be us and the Kings, as well as Griquas and the Pumas.
“There will be a double round before we have the knockout stages and the final. It looks like we will start (the Currie Cup) on July 23 and finish on September 9. That hasn’t been confirmed yet.”
Next season’s PRO14 is set to start on September 27, because of the Rugby World Cup, which would allow the Cheetahs to play their best team in both competitions.
If Smith’s quotes are interpreted correctly, then the Premier Division will feature eight teams split into two pools, with teams in each pool playing each other in a double round of matches.
The Sharks, Western Province, Lions and Blue Bulls would contest one pool, with the Free State Cheetahs, Pumas, Griquas and Eastern Province in the other pool.
The Port Elizabeth-based Kings also contest the PRO14 but their Currie Cup side, Eastern Province, played in the Currie Cup First Division last year. EP finished last in the First Division, losing all six of their matches.
The Pumas and Griquas, who were late last year identified by SA Rugby as franchise candidates, look set to remain in the Premier Division.
Earlier reports hinted that they could in future join European competitions, with the Anglo-Welsh Cup mentioned as a possibility.
The Anglo-Welsh Cup is a knock-out competition featuring the 12 English Premiership clubs and the four Welsh regions.