Gregor Townsend welcomes prospect of South Africa’s big four joining Pro14

Plans to bring the South African Super Rugby sides into an expanded Pro14 have been welcomed by the national coaches of Scotland, Ireland the Springboks.

Scotland coach Gregor Townsend would welcome more South African sides in the Pro14. Picture: Alan Harvey / SNS
Scotland coach Gregor Townsend would welcome more South African sides in the Pro14. Picture: Alan Harvey / SNS

The Bulls, Stormers, Sharks and Lions are expected to defect to the Northern Hemisphere next year.

The radical move comes after the South African Rugby Union (SARU) confirmed it was withdrawing its teams from Super Rugby in favour of playing in Europe.

SARU blamed New Zealand, saying the trans-contintental flit was forced upon them by the Kiwis’ “unilateral” decision to organise its own domestic competition, or possibly a trans-Tasman competition involving Australian teams for next year.

South Africa played no part in the Rugby Championship this year, nor did their sides compete in Super Rugby due to travel restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The prospect of the big four provincial sides coming up against Edinburgh and Glasgow in the Pro14 was greeted warmly by Gregor Townsend, who had a spell with the Sharks as a player.

“Any competition that gets our players playing closer to international rugby will help their development for us to have success at Test level,” said the Scotland coach, who was speaking after the 2023 Rugby World Cup draw placed the Scots in Pool B alongside South Africa and Ireland.

“We have that through the current set-up in the Pro 14. But if those four South African teams come into the competition that will enhance it. And it will let our players experience a different type of rugby in different conditions.”

Andy Farrell, the Ireland coach, said: “We want to be able to play against the best as much as we can and the big South African provinces joining Pro14 is the way we would like to see it go.”

Jacques Nienaber, the South Africa coach, added: “Super Rugby is a little different so it would be a big step up for them in terms of tactics, different playing surfaces and different referees.

“I think it’s probably very close to Test match rugby and I’m super excited for our players.”

If the move to Pro rugby does come off it will increase speculation that the Springboks may also head to the Northern Hemisphere to join an expanded Six Nations.

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