The new Currie Cup Premier Division format featuring eight teams will come into play on August 8 in a fresh start to SAís top domestic competition, with newcomers the EP Kings taking on Western Province in the opening match.
The official launch of the 2014 Currie Cup competition was hosted by the South African Rugby Union (SARU) and sponsor on Wednesday at Jeppe High School for Boys in Johannesburg where the new format was explained and the 2014 marketing campaign revealed.
The launch featured a Tag rugby match between the media, and the players and coaching staff of the Premier and First Division teams.
The Premier Division of the Currie Cup was expanded from six teams to eight following a decision by SARUís General Council in February. This format ensures that the six anchor unions in South African rugby (the Blue Bulls, Sharks, Western Province, Free State Cheetahs, Golden Lions and the EP Kings) will be guaranteed their places in the Currie Cup Premier Division for the next two seasons.
First Division champions, the Pumas, meanwhile, gained entry into the Premier Division after winning the promotion-relegation matches against Griquas at the conclusion of last season, while Griquas booked their spot in a thrilling qualifying series which ended last weekend.
SARU CEO Jurie Roux was excited about the new competition format and said it would be beneficial for South African rugby, especially with the EP Kings featuring alongside the other core unions.
"The Eastern Cape region is a rugby stronghold in SA so it is fitting that they receive the opportunity to compete regularly with the other Franchise unions," said Roux.
"This will also assist the EP Kings in their preparation for their inclusion in Super Rugby in 2016, so we are excited to see what they have to offer.
"I have no doubt the tournament will continue to generate the excitement it has in the past with a tight race for semifinal places and a few upsets throughout the season."