Rumours have begun that the Pro12 will expand with South African teams; the Cheetahs and the Southern Kings.
This could be as soon as September 2017, meaning that they would compete against teams from Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales next season.
Why is this happening?
This is due mainly to the restructuring of Super Rugby, in which Australian and South African teams are being cut from the competition. Additionally, this venture can be attributed to the finances of the Pro12 itself. In recent years the Pro12 has had the difficulty of competing with the financial giants of the Aviva Premiership and Top 14. Indeed, the recent takeover of the Newport Gwent Dragons by the Welsh Rugby Union due to financial difficulties highlights the struggle that Pro12 teams currently face just to survive.
Problems with the Expansion
This expansion is problematic on both an ideological and logistical level. Ideologically, this is a significant blow to Tier-2 European rugby as commercial interests in other continents have become prioritised. The recent success of Russian side Enisei-STM in the European Challenge Cup is proof that ambitious new clubs already exist. Following the recent rejection of Georgia to join the 6 Nations, Tier-2 European rugby could continue to be ignored.
Logistically, this expansion poses difficulties due to travel and venues. There has been a discussion that Saracens’ Allianz Park could be a potential base for one of the teams. If this does not occur though, will Pro12 teams be forced to travel to South Africa?
This expansion could be very beneficial for the Pro12. The potential to expand the competition to a new audience is understandably a very enticing offer. However, there is a risk of saturating European rugby with non-European teams, which could affect both atmosphere and fixture lists. There is a risk that the Pro12 has looked too far afield to expand their audience. Finally, it is best to approach this story with caution as neither Celtic Rugby Limited nor the South African Rugby Union has commented yet.
Author: Rob Morris
I think that this is one of the more imaginative ways for a student to avoid focusing on their degree. Born in London to Irish parents has left me with a peculiar network of teams which I support. A huge rugby and football fan, with an interest in other sports such as Rugby League, Gaelic and Boxing.