It’s safe to say that the current Pro 14, has endured a pretty turbulent existence in terms of name changes and the teams who actually compete in it. Once again, we enter a new era, this time with what is likely to be the most radial modification the league has witnessed; the introduction of two South African teams, formerly of Super Rugby.
It’s obviously way too early to judge whether this is a good move or not, with many valid questions being posed, including how far the Pro 14 are looking to go in terms of transformation and what will be the effects on the Carbon footprint, given the regular flights from South Africa and vice versa.
But enough of the speculative shit for now, let’s look at what we can expect from the league this year!
The Two New Boys
- These fellas are a fairly young outfit and were only created in 2009 in order to face the British & Irish Lions. They earned Super Rugby status in 2013 but had a rather woeful record, often finishing near the bottom of the overall standings.
- They play at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium at Port Elizabeth, which was created especially for the football World Cup in 2010 and has a capacity of 46,000.
- They don’t really possess any stand out South African stars, yet they’ll still likely bring some quality rugby to the league.
- The older of the two sides, the Cheetahs joined Super Rugby alongside Western Force in 2006.
- They play in Bloemfontain’s Free State Stadium, which has a capacity of 48,000.
- They’ve had legends such as Willie Le Roux and Juan Smith play for them in the past, however recently there form has suffered in Super Rugby, hence the move to the Pro 14.
The Future of Pro 14
The South African sides have signed a 6-year deal, which will bring around £6 Million per year to the Pro 14, through TV rights. This is a 50% increase on the league’s previous TV rights total. Result!
What’s more, each current Pro 12 side will receive an extra £500,000 for travel expenses.
How Does the Competition Shape Up?
- The whole setup has changed, so there will now be 2 7-team conferences, each consisting of two Irish, two Welsh, and one from each of Scotland, Italy and South Africa.
- Each team plays those in their conference both home and away.
- Here’s where it gets a little confusing: All teams from Conference A then play all teams from Conference B once.
- Derby Fixtures are then added into the equation: Countries that only have one team per conference play their derbies twice, whilst the Welsh and Irish derbies (2 each) from each conference occur once.
All rather confusing!
This Season's Conferences
The conferences are not picked at random; they’re created on the standings of the previous season, and this will continue going forward meaning the conferences will constantly promote fresh challenges.
How Do You Win the Bloody Thing?
- The winners of each conference automatically qualify for the Playoff Semi-Finals and are guaranteed home advantage.
- 2nd and 3rd place in each conference then battle it out for the remaining semi-final spots, with the team who finished 2nd enjoying home advantage in this encounter.
- Then it’s a case of the best team wins…
South Africans in Europe?
Because the South African teams aren’t currently eligible to play in European Cups, the top 3 non South African teams from each conference will qualify for the Champions Cup, as well as the highest points scoring, non South African 4th placed finisher.
The rest of the European teams will then go into the Challenge Cup.
I'll tell you something, my head was in a bit of a spin after writing all of that - the whole structure seems extremely complex, however best to judge once the first season is over.
One question I pose to you though is, what will be the effect on the game's grassroots?