CHEETAH’S AND KINGS OUT.
And then there were twelve. The pro 14 will receive another makeover this season. The South African additions the Kings, and the Cheetah’s exiting the competition for the foreseeable future.
The announcement that the 14, was heading back to 12 teams came as little surprise. The current global pandemic issues were an obvious stumbling block.
The Southern Kings, in particular, looked badly out of their depth. They managed to win just four of their 55 fixtures. That coupled with sparsely attended fixtures meant their departure was certainly on the cards. The loss of the Bloemfontein based Cheetah’s is a huge blow to the competition. Their cavalier brand of rugby had been successful in helping them secure a playoff spot.
NEW FORMAT RETAINED
The competition will likely retain it’s a much-maligned new format. It is likely to feature six teams in two separate conferences. This is one fewer than the Pro 14 version which had seven in each section.
The top four in each conference will then contest quarter-finals in the last eight stages. Some former players have been rather scathing about the conference style competition. Welsh wing wizard Shane Williams labeling the format “Shambolic.”
The latest Pro 14 restructure will likely lead to an eighteen game season. Irish is set to benefit in a big way, in an already jam-packed rugby calendar. Wales, Scotland, and Italy will also be delighted with the new development. The punishing workload on their international players has always been a concern.
The news will be less well received in England and France, where there are 22 and 26 games respectively. There have been many rumblings about the perceived easier seasons for the other competing Six Nations sides. The latest development will have done little to ease their frustrations.
The competition has certainly had a chequered history from its beginning in 1999. It has gone through numerous rebrandings and restructurings in its 21-year history. The arrival of the Kings and the Cheetahs were heralded as a bright new dawn. In truth, the competition has struggled to capture the public imagination. Their departure will at least have a positive knock-on effect for Irish rugby.