Picture: UNSPLASH/THOMAS SERER
Picture: UNSPLASH/THOMAS SERER

Continued travel restrictions have necessitated a significant change of plan in the Rainbow Cup.           

PRO14 Rugby and SA Rugby will now operate dual Rainbow Cup tournaments with no cross-hemisphere fixtures. In the absence of formal approvals to allow the SA teams to enter the UK and Ireland, the organisers were left with little alternative to make the changes before the competition kicks off on Friday.

SA Rugby said in a statement that various options for the SA teams to travel to Europe and be based in the UK were explored but could not be put into practice due to the heightened restrictions caused by SA’s designation as a red-list territory in terms of Covid-19 risk.

In its place a southern tournament‚ called the Rainbow Cup SA‚ will feature the Sharks‚ Stormers‚ Lions and Bulls taking each other on over a double round of home and away action over seven weeks. A new fixture list will be announced shortly.

That will come as a huge disappointment for local fans who have seen the same teams compete against each other in Super Rugby Unlocked‚ the Currie Cup and partly in the preparation series.

The northern PRO14 Rainbow Cup will still take place on the dates previously published with the fixtures involving the SA teams removed from the schedule. 

This decision has no effect on the long-term partnership between PRO14 Rugby and SA Rugby. More  details about those plans and the league structure for the 2021/2022 season onwards will be made public shortly.

“This is a huge disappointment‚ but time had simply run out‚” said Jurie Roux‚ CEO of SA Rugby. “No stone was left unturned to try and find a solution to the challenges, including basing our teams for 10 days in locations in the Middle East or Europe. But the pieces of the jigsaw would not fall into place in time to allow us to put those plans into action.”

A wide stakeholder group‚ led by a working group between the tournament team at PRO14 Rugby and SA Rugby‚ produced a long list of various options for entry of the teams‚ base camps and high-standard medical protocols across the past four months to cater for different scenarios.

In total‚ 12 venues across the UK‚ Ireland and Europe were considered as base camps for the SA teams to operate out of or to use as a quarantine destination before entering the UK and Ireland.

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