Four of South Africa's 'Super' teams will be joining up with Guinness PRO14 teams in July, as part of a new 'Rainbow Cup' tournament.
The announcement was made today that the current Guinness PRO14 season will end in March, to allow the new tournament to take place.
The Bulls, the Sharks, the Lions, and the Stormers will all be part of the forthcoming tournament this summer.
In a statement made by the PRO14, a number of reasons were given for the introduction of the new cup.
"This decision also allows our European-based sides to earn qualification for European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) tournaments in 2021/22 in a fair and equitable manner."
"Ahead of the 2021 British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa, the Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup will provide a ground-breaking spectacle for fans who will see international star players from north and south establish new rivalries in their bid for the ultimate Test selection."
"Fans will be able to watch it all unfold with our broadcast partners Premier Sports, eir Sport, S4C, TG4, DAZN, and SuperSport."
Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby, said the Rainbow Cup was a step in a new direction for their rugby program.
“After so much turmoil and uncertainty in 2020, the prospect of a return to top-flight international domestic competition is one to which we all can all look forward with real excitement.”
How will the Guinness PRO14 season end?
The current PRO14 campaign will finish after 16 rounds, with conference winners facing each other in the final.
The final will be held in late March. The Rainbow Cup will then commence on the 17th of April, 2021.
"Rounds 12 to 16 will take place from February 20 and conclude on March 20. A final will then take place at the home venue of the highest-ranked team," according to the PRO14 statement.
How will the Rainbow Cup work?
The Rainbow Cup will be divided into pool stages, two pool stages of eight teams. A final will then be played between two winners.
It will act as a lead-in for the British and Irish Lions tests with South Africa later in the year.
Rassie Erasmus, South Africa’s director of rugby, welcomed the new competition.
“The timing of the Rainbow Cup is perfect,” he said. “It will finally get our Super teams back into international competition after a year’s absence and comes at the ideal time as preparation for the tour by the British & Irish Lions.
“It will be a step-up from domestic competition and remind our players of the different type of rugby they can expect when the Lions are here. Our players will be facing many of the players that will be in Warren Gatland’s squad and it will be very interesting to see how our players adapt to the challenge.”
SA Rugby CEO Roux said that discussions regarding a long-term partnership remained on-going and an update would be provided at the appropriate time.