Pro Rugby has laid out the welcome map for the ex-Super Rugby sides, to the planned Rainbow Cup 2021 competition.
Starting in April 2021, the Guinness PRO14 competition will join with the four South African sides, to compete for a new trophy; as well as qualification for the 2021/22 Heineken Champions Cup draw. This is a unique opportunity for the rejected teams, who have only had meager competition during the Covid-19 pandemic.
After consulting with key PRO14 stakeholders, the Rainbow Cup 2021 was chosen as the best pathway to both finish-up the current campaign, and introduce South Africa’s four ex-Super teams: the Vodacom Bulls, Emirates Lions, Cell C Sharks, and DHL Stormers. This decision also allows our European-based sides to earn qualification for European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) tournaments in 2021/22 in a fair and equitable manner.
— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) December 23, 2020
Increasing the number of teams fighting for pride in this new league, the Celtic and Italian sides will go head-to-head with players from the 2019 Rugby World Cup-winning group. Siya Kilosi, Pieter Steph du Toit, Duane Vermeulen (see main image), and Herschel Jantjies. Not including those who play now in the Premiership or French Top14, it will reintroduce those men into a first-class competition, in the months prior to any TBC 2021/22 Pro Rugby league draw.
Those stars can now plan for inter-continental rugby again. As can their fans in South Africa, and across the globe.
Rainbow Cup 2021 will reintroduce South African ex-Super sides to competition
In a joint statement, the chief executives from both Guinness PRO14 and the South African Rugby Union expressed their satisfaction with the finalized draw.
Martin Anayi, CEO of Pro Rugby said, “At a time where our sport has faced its greatest challenge, we have promising news about an innovative solution to partner with South African rugby ahead of the British & Irish Lions tour.
“It was vital that we worked with all parties to ensure our 12 teams had a clear road towards European qualification. With a Lions tour in South Africa 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 Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup 2021.”
SARU chief Jurie Roux reiterated that sentiment. “The inclusion of South Africa’s ‘Super’ Teams in the Rainbow Cup is a once-in-a-generation, watershed moment for South African 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.”
Rugby headlines as Rassie Erasmus hails 'perfect' Rainbow Cup before Lions tour and Wales Six Nations chances up for grabshttps://t.co/AnpvUOnkub
— WalesOnline Rugby (@WalesRugby) December 24, 2020
That enthusiasm was shared by Springboks director of rugby Rassie Erasmus. “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.”
Being idle for so long, then having to exit a planned Rugby Championship, this is a ‘win’ for South African fans. As the two former Pro Rugby sides; the Cheetahs and Southern Kings, had to depart the Celtic League with travel restrictions and financial disabilities, it all points to the ex-Super sides finally returning to action.
And not soon enough.
SA fans are thirsting for some decent competition, and their reintroduction will also boost the level for champions like Leinster. They, along with Connacht, Scarlets, Cardiff, and all the other Guinness PRO14 teams will eagerly look forward to a fresh challenge – the Rainbow Cup 2021 – once their regular season ends in March.
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“Main photo credit”
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