SA's PRO14 participation could be over for 2020

Hawies Fourie (Getty)
Hawies Fourie (Getty)

The Cheetahs are unlikely to play in the PRO14 again this year but remain fully committed to the competition moving forward. 

Currently fourth in Conference A of the 2019/20 season, the Cheetahs are very much in the playoff race - the top three teams qualify - but given South Africa's current situation and the continued fight against the coronavirus, it is difficult to see them back on the field anytime soon. 

Speaking to Sport24 on Tuesday, Cheetahs CEO Harold Verster confirmed that he has been having weekly video meetings with PRO14 organisers throughout the national lockdown and that the 2019/20 tournament could resume as soon as August 22

If that happened, then the competition would go ahead without the Cheetahs and the Kings. 

The beginning of the 2020/21 season could then begin anywhere from October through to December, but again the Cheetahs and Kings are no guarantees given the uncertainty surrounding travel restrictions and the fact that both unions could be playing in the South African Currie Cup during that time. 

It was possible, Verster said, that the Cheetahs could feature in a domestic South African competition with the Super Rugby sides before the Currie Cup, but what is looking to be a certainty now is that South Africa's participation in the PRO14 this season, and perhaps even this year, has come to an end. 

"I think we could have a domestic competition a bit later on, but international travel will be difficult," Verster said. 

There was still the possibility of the Kings and Cheetahs playing against each other this year in fixtures that would contribute towards the PRO14 standings, but given that the South African sides cannot travel, the curtain has effectively been brought down on their European seasons. 

The matches the Cheetahs and Kings play in this year's Currie Cup, Verster added, could even be used to allocate points on next season's PRO14 logs. 

"They will have the Kings and Cheetahs play another two games, maybe in the Currie Cup, that will count in the PRO14 as well."

"They are waiting for their different governments, but they are bullish to start on August 22 if they get the green light, maybe behind closed doors. Then the new season could start in October/November/December, or even in January next year," Verster said. 

"The new campaign might start towards the end of the year and then it's difficult to tell whether we will be involved because of the Currie Cup structure that might come.

"I predict that we'll have a Currie Cup competition that might overlap into October or even November and we'll ask to join into the PRO14, us and the Kings, in January."

Verster ruled out the possibility of the Cheetahs splitting their squads towards the end of the year by fielding one side in the Currie Cup and another in the PRO14. 

"That didn't work out for us and it was bad for both competitions. We'll never enter into that kind of problem again," he said. 

While it has been a testing period for South Africa's relationship with the PRO14, which could get even worse given the likelihood of them being forgotten for the remainder of 2020, Verster was optimistic about the future of the union in the competition. 

"They are very positive about us and they want to see us in PRO14 for the long haul," he said. 

"They like what we do, they like to tour and play here and the support base of the Cheetahs has grown in Europe."

"It's a good competition for us."

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