Rassie Erasmus. Picture: GALLO IMAGES
Rassie Erasmus. Picture: GALLO IMAGES

South African rugby’s ties to the northern hemisphere have been strengthened with the addition of Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus and SA Rugby CE Jurie Roux to the Pro14 board.

This is the next logical step in the relationship that started in 2017 with the inclusion of the Southern Kings and Cheetahs into the PRO14 tournament.

Martin Anayi‚ CE of PRO14‚ made it clear when the two South African teams joined the competition that expansion would not stop there.

Anayi called it "an expansion tournament" at the time, with the aim of PRO14 growing into other markets such as the US.

It might also have room for one or two more local teams‚ with the Pumas out of Nelspruit among the possible candidates.

"To have the CEO and the director of rugby of another Tier-1 nation join the board is another important step forward for PRO14 Rugby and for the relationship with South African rugby‚" said Anayi.

"We have made great strides this season in expanding into a new territory in keeping with the DNA of the championship as a pioneering cross-border competition, and these appointments only serve to reinforce that progress," he said.

Roux said: "Our expansion into the Guinness PRO14 in 2017 heralded a new era for South African rugby and was one of the most exciting new ventures in a long time in our game.

"I am looking forward to working even more closely with our friends from Wales‚ Scotland‚ Ireland and Italy as rugby moves closer to a global calendar and the game becomes even more accessible to new and untapped markets."

The quality of the league has been highlighted with three PRO14 teams, Munster‚ Leinster and the Scarlets, making it into the semifinals of the European Champions Cup.

For now, no SA teams are eligible for the lucrative European competition even if they qualify through PRO14‚ as the French and English leagues also share in governing that tournament.

It is one issue that needs to be resolved to add further incentive for the competing SA teams.

Erasmus‚ who coached Irish province Munster Rugby‚ said: "I had the privilege of coaching in the Guinness PRO14 and found it to be very competitive and hugely popular.

"To serve on the board will be a great honour and I am looking forward to working with the other directors.

"The competition has opened a new door to South African players and coaches‚ with our two franchise teams playing against some of the best players in Europe on a weekly basis and in very different weather conditions."