The South African contingent in the Guinness PRO14 could be set to increase with Super Rugby big-hitters keen to join the cross-border competition.
Southern Kings and the Cheetahs are already on board and into their second season in the league.
Now the Bulls, Sharks and Stormers have all emerged as potential additions to the PRO14 party.
The prospect is that two of these high-profile sides could join up for the 2020-21 season, creating an expanded PRO16.
A number of teams from different countries have been touted as potential new recruits for the league over the last year or so.
There has been talk of American sides coming on board, with South African Currie Cup outfits the Griquas and Pumas also heavily linked.
And just this week, it was mooted that a Georgian team could join the league, as the Eastern Europeans look to break into the top tier of the game.
National coach Milton Haig went as far as to say he was hopeful a Georgian outfit could be involved in the next couple of years.
But this is not on the cards, nor is the involvement of the Griquas and Pumas or a Barcelona-based team.
The only new additions PRO14 chiefs are considering with real interest are top South African Super Rugby sides.
It’s understood the Bulls, Sharks and Stormers are all keen on being involved from 2020.
The appeal from a South African point of view is that matches would take place in the same time zone, which is welcome to broadcasters and takes less of a toll on players than travelling to Australia and New Zealand.
From the PRO14 perspective, the sides would bring quality and status to the league, with the Pretoria-based Bulls, for example, being three-times Super 14 champions.
Among the Springbok stars on their books are Duane Vermeulen, Handre Pollard, Jess Kriel, Lood de Jager and Schalk Brits.
The Stormers, from Cape Town, feature big names like Eben Etzebeth, Damian de Allende, Pieter-Steph du Toit and ‘Boks captain Siya Kolisi, with Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira among the leading lights at the Durban-sited Sharks.
As well as rugby credibility, these sides would also generate vital additional revenue for the league if a couple of them signed up.
The inclusion of the Cheetahs and Kings brings in around £6m per season, with a TV deal in place with SuperSport.
Adding higher profile South African sides would be likely to bring in significantly more cash again.
Solving a big problem
It would also allow PRO14 bosses to address one of the major issues with the competition.
There is consistent criticism over the number of matches that are played out between second string sides, with the star names missing.
With 21 regular season fixtures, several games have to be played in international periods, which means teams being hard hit by Test call-ups.
Almost counter-intuitively, increasing to 16 sides would enable that problem to be addressed.You would be able to have one league, with teams playing each other home or away, giving 15 fixtures.
Add in three return derbies and you would have a regular season total of 18 games, which would enable pretty much every match to be played outside of the Test window.
It would be a case of quality over quantity, with the stars on duty in a greater percentage of league fixtures.
By: Wales Online