SARU eyeing Anglo-Welsh Cup in next move north
Following the addition of the Cheetahs and Southern Kings to the Pro14 this season, the South African Rugby Union is keen to expand their Northern Hemisphere options for the 2018/19 campaign.
RugbyPass understands that talks are at an advanced stage to add two new “franchises” to the Anglo-Welsh Cup next season, with SARU seemingly keen to open up multiple avenues in the Northern Hemisphere, as they continue to search for alternatives to Super Rugby.
The final decisions on this mooted move will be made later this month but if they are given the go-ahead by both SARU and Anglo-Welsh Cup organisers, Premier Rugby Ltd, then the two new franchises will be built around existing Currie Cup teams.
With the Cheetahs and Southern Kings committed to the PRO14, both the Free State Cheetahs and Eastern Province would likely be off the cards, but the Sharks (Durban) and Golden Lions (Johannesburg) are potential options, with their affiliated Super Rugby sides rumoured to also be open to moves to the northern hemisphere in the coming seasons.
This would be a way for the decision-makers at the Sharks and Lions to test the waters in regard to the viability of playing in the Northern Hemisphere.
An alternative would be to build the two new franchises around Currie Cup sides that have no affiliations to Super Rugby sides, such as the Pumas (Nelspruit) or Griquas (Kimberley), or sides from the First Division, such as the Griffons (Welkom), Leopards (Potchefstroom) or Border Bulldogs (East London).
If the respective boards agree to the move later this month, it will be another step forward for South African rugby in the Northern Hemisphere and may well be the precursor to more interest from England and France in the South African sides, especially with big markets like Durban, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Pretoria potentially on the cards in the coming years.