For the Cheetahs the Guinness PRO 14 will take precedence over the Currie Cup this season‚ SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux has said.
The 2017-18 PRO 14 was officially launched in Cape Town on Friday where the Cheetahs and Southern Kings were welcomed to the expanding event.
The PRO 14 will overlap with the Currie Cup during September and October due to the hasty inclusion of the Kings and Cheetahs. It will have ramifications for the Bloemfontein-based side‚ who are three games into their Currie Cup campaign already.
The Cheetahs currently head the Currie Cup standings on 15 points and they have a realistic chance of reaching the semi-finals.
The final is scheduled for October 28‚ when the Cheetahs will be in Italy to play Zebre.
“If the Currie Cup clashes with the PRO 14‚ they [the Cheetahs] will play the PRO 14 that day. Even if it’s a final‚” SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux said.
“There are some clashes with the local competitions (Currie Cup) in this first season but we will overcome that after our restructuring meetings.
“The Currie Cup is the oldest competition in the world and hopefully we will have an outcome on the future of it by August 29 after our committees have met.
“Sacrifices will have to be made if you go global‚ and one of the possible scenarios is that there is a reduction of strength versus strength to a single round rather than a double round (in the Currie Cup).
“The global calendar is changing in 2021 and there will be significant changes because it will affect how we can restructure our tournaments.”
PRO 14 chief executive Martin Anayi said that the inclusion of the two SA franchises in the tournament was a natural progression for the ambitious league.
“When I joined two years ago‚ the board and shareholders (of PRO 12‚ as it was then) had a very clear plan that this tournament should expand‚” Anayi said.
“It’s an across-border tournament and we sit in an economic environment where we have to do things differently. We need bigger first party markets where we can spread across multiple territories. With that in mind we always looked at South African to fit that bill.
“When we talked to Jurie it all came together quickly because those fundamental pieces were in place and so it was mutually beneficial‚ but in the right way. It took a matter of months to put together.
“When we chose to go with South Africa we considered many aspects when looking to expand – logistics‚ player welfare‚ commercial value and the way the teams play in SA. They were playing the same attacking rugby we were playing.
“When you put that together with the time zone – it’s only an overnight flight and no jet lag – that hurdle took care of itself. There is also a passionate fan base‚ which made it compelling.”
Entry into the tournament has saved both the Cheetahs and the Kings from financial ruin after they were axed from Super Rugby.
Roux believes it will take 24 months for the teams to become fully sustainable despite earning in the region of R25m each per season from the tournament.
“Our first objective was to get two teams playing international rugby and we have achieved that‚ which has provided commercial value through broadcast revenue and sponsorship income‚” Roux said.
“It will be tough in the first two years‚ we are not blind to that‚ but hopefully after that period SA will have proved itself.
“The Kings are in much better financial shape than they were. As with any international competition SA Rugby has the responsibility to underwrite the teams that participate in a competition. PRO 14 is no different.”