SA rugby franchises could have a future in European Champions Cup

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Courtnall Skosan of the Lions tries to pierce a gap against the Bulls. (Gallo Images)
Courtnall Skosan of the Lions tries to pierce a gap against the Bulls. (Gallo Images)

European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) chairperson Simon Halliday says he expects South Africa’s PRO16 Rainbow Cup teams to become part of the European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup competitions from 2022 onwards.

The current tournament participation agreement came into existence in 2014 which meant the Cheetahs and Southern Kings could not qualify for the Champions or Challenge Cups when they started playing in the PRO14 in 2017.

However, negotiations on a new deal could see that agreement change, with the likes of the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers having something extra to play for.

It was recently announced that these four former Super Rugby franchises would be South Africa's entrants in the PRO16 Rainbow Cup event set to start in April.

"The agreement was set up in 2014 which was the year before I became chairman. It expires effectively in 2022 so we were always going to be debating what the future looked like from two years out and we have been doing that," Halliday told The Rugby Pod.

"We have had an independent review. They have come up with a load of recommendations which the board have unanimously backed and we’re now working out how that feeds into a new agreement and it's very exciting."

When probed on whether South Africa's teams could feature in the European competitions, Halliday added: "We know South Africa have an intention to become part of the PRO16 and we're fully expecting if that happens for that (South Africa's European participation) to come our way. We’d be pretty naive if we didn’t think that.

"When you think about that sort of development, plus frankly the growing strength of all the clubs around all the leagues, it's (European competitions) only going to get bigger and better. We are duty bound to drive an agreement that fully realises that."

The European Champions Cup is the top-tier competition for clubs whose countries' national teams compete in the Six Nations.

Clubs qualify for the Champions Cup via their final positions in their respective leagues (English Premiership, French Top 14 and PRO14) or via winning the second-tier Challenge Cup, while those that do not qualify are instead eligible to compete in the Challenge Cup.

- Compiled by Sport24 staff

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