The South African franchises of Stormers, Bulls and Sharks in the European Cup next season

The EPCR formalized on Thursday the integration of South African franchises into the European Cups from next season. Three of them – the Stormers (based in Cape Town), the Bulls (from Pretoria) and the Sharks (Durban) – will be involved in the Champions Cup, the main continental event, won this year by La Rochelle, while the Lions ( Johannesburg) and the Cheetahs (Bloemfontein) will evolve in the European Challenge, which Lyon has just won.

Stormers, Bulls and Sharks have been playing the United Rugby Championship (URC) since last season, with Irish, Welsh, Scottish and Italian provinces. This year, they finished second, fourth and fifth respectively, which allowed them to qualify for the European Cup, alongside the Irish of Leinster, Munster and Ulster, the Scots of Edinburgh and the Welsh Ospreys.

The Lions finished 12th in the URC. Finally the Cheetahs, who are currently playing in the Currie Cup – the most important competition in South Africa – have been invited to the European Challenge.

“A crucial step in realizing our vision for the development of rugby”

Dominic McKay, President of EPCR

“(These arrivals) will bring to our tournaments (…) world famous players and new supportersdeclared Dominic McKay, the president of the EPCR (European Professional Club Rugby), the body that organizes the European events. This is a crucial step in realizing our vision for the development of rugby and our own tournaments, continuing to deliver strong commercial revenue to our leagues and creating an ever higher level of exciting matches for our fans. »

Same story on the side of the South African Federation (Saru): “ Our five franchises will now play in two new territories (England and France) against opponents we’ve never met beforesaid Jurie Roux, the general manager. We have experienced the intensity of the URC before and now we will also face the best clubs in England and France. “.

“Loss of identity”, “distorted competition”

This enthusiasm is not shared by everyone. Vincent Merling, the president of La Rochelle, denounced ” a loss of identity “, and Clément Poitrenaud, the back coach of the Toulouse Stadium, had estimated that this integration” distorted the competition “.

The Italian, Scottish and Welsh franchises are deprived of places in the European Cup and therefore collateral victims, just like the players, faced with the prospect of long trips to another continent, in the heart of an already extended season.

EPCR will soon announce next season’s formats, along with details of the pool draws for both tournaments, scheduled for the end of the month.

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