Rainbow Cup kickoff dates revealed as ‘SA Rugby aims for smooth transition into Europe’

Mahlatse Mphahlele Sports reporter
SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux and his board have a tough choice to make.
SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux and his board have a tough choice to make.
Image: GALLO IMAGES

The hugely anticipated PRO14 Rainbow Cup will kick off on the weekend of April 24.

The new tournament will see the Bulls‚ Lions‚ Sharks and Stormers‚ who used to take part in Super Rugby‚ make their first foray into Europe against existing Guinness PRO14 teams.

In a statement on Friday morning‚ SA Rugby confirmed the start date and fixtures for the first three rounds of matches but no teams from Europe will be travelling to South Africa because of prevailing Covid-19 conditions.

Three weekends of derby action will be followed by cross-hemisphere fixtures where the existing Guinness PRO14 teams will face SA’s ex-Super teams for the very first time.

“This is exciting news for the four franchises that will move into Europe and I’m sure they will be eager to get the ball rolling in terms of preparing to face a whole new set of opponents‚” said SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux.

“We’ve seen the quality of rugby produced in the Guinness PRO14 this season‚ under difficult circumstances‚ and it will be great for our sides to test their mettle against some of the best club sides in the world‚ bringing with them new challenges.

“It’s disappointing that the teams from Europe won’t be able to come to South Africa yet‚ but there is a bigger picture in play and it will be good to get the ball rolling with the Rainbow Cup. Plans are being made for our teams’ away games later in the series.

“While the excitement is palpable‚ it’s also paramount to remember that we are living in extraordinary times and that forces outside our control can still put a damper on the plans. But we will cross that bridge should the need arise and we are working tirelessly with all relevant stakeholders to ensure a smooth transition into Europe for our teams.”

The schedule has been designed to limit travel where possible with the opening three rounds accounting for derby fixtures across Ireland‚ Italy‚ Scotland‚ South Africa and Wales.

SA Rugby explained that rounds 4 to 6 will see the four South African teams play their away games in Europe and those fixtures will be confirmed once all appropriate travel approvals have been confirmed by the relevant authorities and governments.

The PRO14 Rainbow Cup fixtures will be a foretaste of the rivalries to come later in the year when it is expected a significant number of players from the Welsh‚ Irish and Scottish clubs will be part of the British & Irish Lions touring party to take on the Springboks in South Africa.

The PRO14 Rainbow Cup will feature a total of six rounds (eight games per round) and will feature all teams ranked in a single log with top two teams playing each other in the final on June 19.

PRO14 tournament director David Jordan said: “Everyone is glad that we can now put some certainty into the rugby calendar in what has been an unpredictable period.

“Planning for a cross-hemisphere competition where the situation has been so fluid has provided many challenges‚ but we believe we have found a solution that is practical and safe to deliver a unique competition that supporters can get excited about.

“Throughout the Guinness PRO14 season‚ we have liaised with our unions and their governments to ensure we are meeting the conditions set out for elite sport to operate. We are very grateful for that support‚ without which a cross-border competition such as ours could not have taken place‚” added Jordan.

PRO14 fixtures -

Round 1

April 24:

  • Bulls v Lions
  • Stormers v Sharks
  • Ulster v Connacht
  • Leinster v Munster
  • Benetton v Glasgow Warriors
  • Edinburgh v Zebre Rugby Club
  • Ospreys v Cardiff Blues
  • Dragons v Scarlets

Round 2

May 1:

  • Stormers v Bulls
  • Sharks v Lions

May 8:

  • Connacht v Leinster
  • Munster v Ulster
  • Zebre v Benetton
  • Glasgow Warriors v Edinburgh
  • Cardiff Blues v Dragons
  • Scarlets v Ospreys

Round 3

May 8:

  • Bulls v Sharks
  • Lions v Stormers

May 15:

  • Munster v Connacht
  • Leinster v Ulster
  • Benetton v Zebre
  • Edinburgh v Glasgow Warriors
  • Scarlets v Cardiff Blues
  • Dragons v Ospreys

Round 4: Weekend of May 29:

Round 5: Weekend of June 5

Round 6: Weekend of June 12

Final: Weekend of June 19

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