The Southern Kings have been included in the new-look Guinness PRO14 competition starting from the 2017/18 season of the European competition.
The Eastern Cape based side will become the newest member, together with the Toyota Cheetahs, of a revamped Guinness PRO14 competition which is set to kick off in a few weeks.
The Guinness PRO14 competition, which features top clubs from Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Italy will provide a new and exciting adventure not only for the Southern Kings, but for South African rugby in general as the ground breaking inclusion of the South African teams provides a pioneering opportunity in cross hemisphere rugby.
“There are some exciting times that lie ahead for rugby in our region, on and off the field, and we now have the chance to reclaim our status as one of the powerhouses of South African rugby,” EPRU President, Andre Rademan, said on Tuesday.
“The Southern Kings have been on an upward playing curve this season and there is much to be excited about.
“This team represents the heartland of black rugby in South Africa – a tradition stretching back to the very establishment of the game in this country – and we will bring a unique passion and flavour to the tournament.”
The inclusion of the Southern Kings in another international competition of great stature will signal the dawn of a new era for South African rugby.
“This is an exciting time for the Southern Kings, Eastern Province Rugby Union, Nelson Mandela Bay and the province of the Eastern Cape,” Southern Kings Chief Operations Officer, Charl Crous, said.
“The Southern Kings will continue to be based at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium and will play all our home matches at the stadium,” Crous confirmed.
“This will be an opportunity for people of the Eastern Cape to see international players like Jonathan Sexton, Rob Kearney, Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb, Stuart Hogg, Alberto de Marchi – among a long list of international players from Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Italy who will face the Southern Kings in our own backyard in the near future.
“We have the advantage of great schools rugby system, universities (such as Nelson Mandela University, Rhodes University, Fort Hare University and Walter Sisulu University). This is a great opportunity bring our local players onto the international stage.”
The full list of fixtures will be issued by the Guinness PRO14 competition in the near future.
The playing format is:
· Each conference contains seven teams with an equal split of teams from each union
· Every team will play every other team at least once
· Italian, Scottish and South African teams will play an additional derby fixture to even out the schedule (e.g. the Toyota Cheetahs will play the Southern Kings three times)
· The Guinness PRO14 Final Series will include quarter-finals allowing the top six clubs to reach the knock-out stages (teams 1-3 from each Conference).