The South African Rugby Union have confirmed that the Cheetahs and the Southern Kings have both been cut from Super Rugby from next season.
The Cheetahs board have decided on an amicable settlement with SA Rugby for their Super Rugby participation agreement which would have kept them in Super Rugby until 2020.
The announcement was made just before a Special General Meeting of SA Rugby in Cape Town to formally confirm South Africa’s four participants in the competition in line with a SANZAAR decision to reduce the competition’s participants from 18 to 15 teams from next season.
The new structure will comprise four teams from South Africa, five from New Zealand, four from Australia and one each from Argentina and Japan.
The settlement will allow the Cheetahs to explore other international competition opportunities, according to Harold Verster, CEO of the Cheetahs.
“The board of the Cheetahs has reviewed the team’s future and is extremely positive about the prospect of appearing in alternative international competitions. It will be an exciting challenge for our players, supporters and commercial partners and will be the start of a new chapter for rugby both in our region and in South Africa. Also, it will allow the Cheetahs to carve out a new and prominent place on the rugby map in South Africa as well as internationally,” he said.
The Cheetahs and the Southern Kings are widely expected to join the Celtic League in an expanded Pro 12 tournament with 14 teams.
Andre Rademan, president of the EPRU (Southern Kings), said: “It has been a roller coaster ride for the franchise for a number of seasons but there is now a clear and viable way forward for rugby in the Eastern Cape to build on the foundations that have been laid – particularly in the past season.
“We have enjoyed Super Rugby but the chance to test ourselves against different opposition in different conditions is a mouth-watering one. We are therefore not opposed to joining new competitions. With all stakeholders pulling in the same direction we can bring success and excitement to rugby in the Eastern Cape.”
The Bulls, Lions, Stormers and Sharks have been confirmed as South Africa’s four Super Rugby competitors from 2018.
Jurie Roux, CEO, of SA Rugby said that Friday’s General Meeting still had the constitutional responsibility to confirm SA’s entrants in the competition.
“I want to thank the Cheetahs and the Kings for the mature and professional manner in which they approached and managed this difficult situation. They took decisions that will not only benefit them, but also SA Rugby in general,” said Roux.