- SA Rugby has confirmed that four South African franchises will compete in the newly established Rainbow Cup competition next year.
- The Stormers, Sharks, Bulls and Lions will face 12 clubs from Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Italy in the competition.
- The Rainbow Cup will run from 17 April to 19 June 2021.
After months of ongoing negotiations, SA Rugby has confirmed that four South African franchises, the Stormers, Sharks, Bulls and Lions will face 12 clubs from Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Italy in a new competition, the Rainbow Cup, next year.
Set to kick off on 17 April 2021 with the final on 19 June, the competition will see each South African team make a three-match tour to Europe, while the 12 overseas clubs will also play in South Africa.
"The inclusion of South Africa's 'Super' Teams in the Rainbow Cup is a step in a new direction for us," said Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby.
"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 that discussions regarding a long-term partnership remained on-going and an update would be provided at the appropriate time.
Springbok director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus welcomed the new competition and stated that it will be the perfect build-up to the 2021 British and Irish Lions tour.
"The timing of the Rainbow Cup is perfect," he said. "It will finally get our Super teams back into international competition after a year's absence and comes at the ideal time as preparation for the tour by the British & Irish Lions.
"It will be a step-up from domestic competition and remind our players of the different type of rugby they can expect when the Lions are here. Our players will be facing many of the players that will be in Warren Gatland's squad and it will be very interesting to see how our players adapt to the challenge."
The 16 teams will be divided into two pools of eight: made up of 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 final on 19 June.
"Having coached in Ireland with Munster, I know what our players can expect, and it will be very different to Super Rugby," said Springbok coach, Jacques Nienaber.
"The rugby is unbelievably tough and will ask different questions of our players. It will be a highly competitive competition and will be a real learning curve for our coaches and players."
Martin Anayi, CEO, PRO14 Rugby, said: "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 PRO14 Rainbow Cup."
Anayi said that the PRO14 Rainbow Cup was chosen as the best pathway to introduce South Africa's four major teams to northern-hemisphere rugby after lengthy consultation involving key stakeholders among PRO14 Rugby's clubs and unions, while allowing our European-based sides to conclude the current campaign in a manner deemed fair and equitable.
The current PRO14 competition will conclude with a final on 27 March.
- Compiled by Sport24 staff