Tuesday’s announcement about the expansion of the old Guinness Pro 12 has been largely met with approval from fans, coaches and players alike. For many, the prospect of facing The Cheetahs and Southern Kings from South Africa represents a much-needed shot in the arm for the league, as well as increasing the profile of the tournament, and generating much needed financial investment in the competition.
The ambitious move to include two southern-hemisphere teams for the European season represents brand new territory for the sport. Early reports suggest expansion won’t stop here; teams in Canada and USA are being tipped to join as early as the 2018/19 season, with other rumours pointing to the likes of Georgia, Romania and Germany as growing rugby markets with huge future potential.
I’m pleased to say I believe The Kings and the Cheetahs also stand to benefit. The Pro14 has handed them a lifeline at a time when these teams were cut from the Super Rugby tournament, and I feel they will enter this new chapter with gusto. They are certain to add a fast and entertaining brand of rugby to the competition, and will not be merely making up the numbers. I, for one, cannot wait to see Cardiff Blues take on The Cheetahs at the Arms Park this season!
For a taster of what’s to come, here are the highlights from when Southern Kings hosted The Cheetahs in Port Elizabeth in the Super Rugby competition just last month.
Cardiff Blues fans may recall that Wales’ Capital Region faced the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein in 2012 – an invitational game which formed part of their pre-season programme. The Blues emerged victorious that day, edging the hosts 32-31 courtesy of a late Ceri Sweeney penalty.
The Blues and The Cheetahs will re-ignite their rivalry this season, with both teams drawn in Conference A. Blues Head Coach Danny Wilson is relishing the challenge ahead:
Versatile Blues back-rower Macauley Cook recalls their last encounter with the Cheetahs:
Cardiff Blues second-row powerhouse George Earle, formerly of The Cheetahs, outlines what the Arms Park outfit can expect from the South African teams:
Scarlets Head Coach Wayne Pivac is excited for the challenges the new Pro14 will bring, as the West-Walians begin defence of their championship crown in September:
Elsewhere in the league, new Edinburgh Head Coach Richard Cockerill describes the Pro14 expansion as “ground-breaking”, as he prepares for his first season in the championship:
Glasgow Warriors scrum-half Henry Pyrgos is a big fan of Super Rugby, and believes the Cheetahs and Kings will add an exciting new dimension to the league:
And finally, Cheetahs Head Coach Franco Smith – a former coach at Treviso – describes his determination to hit the ground running when the Bloemfontein outfit make their Pro14 debut in September:
The fixture list for the Pro14 is due to be confirmed on 7th August.
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