Scottish Rugby has stated that they are pleased that the ambitious expansion of the Guinness PRO12 to the PRO14 is now a reality.
Celtic Rugby and the South African Rugby Union have confirmed that the Toyota Cheetahs and the Southern Kings will join an expanded tournament in time for the upcoming 2017/18 season.
And in a statement Scottish Rugby said: “Scottish Rugby has been instrumental in driving forward the development of the Guinness PRO14 and is therefore pleased this ambitious expansion is now a reality.
“To bring two quality teams from South Africa into a competition which is already one of the most competitive and attractive in the world game will raise playing standards, create unique matches, develop all the teams involved and generate additional revenue across each of the participating nations.
“The ambition is to create the world’s top club competition and today’s announcement is a significant step in that direction. We now look forward to welcoming the Southern Kings and Toyota Cheetahs to Edinburgh, Glasgow and Scotland this season.”
Martin Anayi, CEO of the Guinness PRO14, welcomed both South African clubs to the Championship and described it as an historic chapter for the tournament as it begins the first phase of expansion.
“The arrival of the Toyota Cheetahs and the Southern Kings marks a bold and exciting new chapter for the Guinness PRO14 as a global rugby Championship,” he said.
“As a country, South Africa is a rugby powerhouse of over 55 million people. These teams already operate to the high standards demanded by Super Rugby and they will add to the quality of our tournament.
“Our Unions and World Rugby are committed to broadening the game and this move is evidence of our ambition to lead the way in growing the club game beyond our own borders, which in turn will unlock the true potential of this tournament. Expansion is in the DNA of the Championship and ever since the Celtic League kicked off in 2001 Cross Border competition has thrived.
“Being based across some of the most renowned hotbeds of rugby, the Championship has always been rife with international talent and last season we saw 270 internationals appear in the Guinness PRO12. Since then another 25 made their Test debuts in June while 27 of our players were on duty with the British & Irish Lions in New Zealand.
“This is a natural evolution for the Championship and not only will the calibre of the Toyota Cheetahs and the Southern Kings grow audiences, interest and the commercial base for the tournament and our clubs, it is a move that also lays the foundations for years to come.”
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