Champions Cup: South African participation confirmed with Cheetahs added to the Challenge Cup

·2-min read
 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

The EPCR have confirmed that South African sides will be allowed to play in the Champions Cup, starting from next season.

Following impressive seasons in the United Rugby Championship, the Stormers, Sharks and Bulls will play in Europe’s top-tier competition.

The Lions, after finishing in 12th with eight wins from 18 games, will compete in the Challenge Cup, while the Cheetahs have interestingly been added to that second-tier tournament.

Pinnacle of global club rugby

EPCR chairman Dominic McKay said: “We are delighted to confirm that the South African clubs will be part of our expanded tournaments from the beginning of next season.

“The Stormers, Bulls, Sharks and Lions will all bring hugely exciting southern hemisphere rugby, well-known world-class players and broad new audiences into our tournaments.

“The steps we have taken with our stakeholder leagues and with SARU (South African Rugby Union) ensure that we can further develop the tournaments as the pinnacle of global club rugby.

“This is a crucial step forward in bringing to life our vision of growing the game and our own tournaments, continuing to deliver strong returns for our leagues and creating an ever-higher standard of mouthwatering matches for our fans.”

A former Super Rugby outfit, the Cheetahs team have not been involved in the URC this season but have been accepted into the Challenge Cup.

“We are very grateful to SA Rugby and all the other stakeholders for getting us the opportunity to play in an international competition again. We know it took a lot of hard work and we are looking forward to playing in the EPCR Challenge Cup next season,” Cheetahs CEO Ross van Reenen said.

“I especially want to express my sincere thanks and gratitude for the incredible amount of hard work that Mr Jurie Roux, CEO of SARU and Mr Mark Alexander, president of SARU, have put in behind the scenes to make this dream of competing in the EPCR Challenge Cup become a reality for the Free State Cheetahs.”

Roux added: “We would like to thank all stakeholders who have been involved in the negotiation process – the board and staff of EPCR, the URC, Premiership Rugby and the Ligue Nationale de Rugby.

“Ever since we’ve made the decision to align with the northern hemisphere, our aim was to play in the EPCR competitions.

“As we’ve seen during the inaugural season of the URC, the rugby is of the highest standard and our top players definitely benefited from this move.

“We now have an opportunity to also start rubbing shoulders with the top clubs from England and France in two other competitions that have caught the imagination of rugby supporters around the globe for more than two decades.”

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