South African sides were not given approval to travel

Pro14 Rainbow Cup becomes dual tournament due to Covid restrictions

The Guinness Pro14 Rainbow Cup has become a dual tournament after South African clubs were not given permission to travel due to Covid restrictions.

The tournament was due to involve the 12 Irish, Italian, Scottish and Welsh teams that compete in the Pro14 as well as four South African sides – Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers.

However, South Africa is on the travel red list for many countries involved in the tournament and restrictions relating to the pandemic could not be overcome, so there will no longer be cross-hemisphere matches.

Instead the competition has been split in two, with a northern tournament consisting of Welsh, Irish, Italian and Scottish clubs. There will then be a Rainbow Cup SA, which will see the four South African sides playing each other.

Pro14 Rainbow Cup becomes dual tournament

Leinster beat Munster in the recent Pro14 final (Getty Images)

What avenues were explored?

Organisers said they exhausted every avenue and had looked at various options for base camps, medical protocols and entry for teams. but could not find a solution where South African clubs could travel.

They looked into 12 venues across the UK, Ireland and Europe to be a base for South African clubs. Places in the Middle East were also considered to host fixtures for South African teams.

Pro14 CEO Martin Anayi said: “Among our unions, our own staff and SA Rugby there is no more that could have been asked in terms of designing plans that were medically sound. However, there has been no perfect solution found in time to allow for South African teams’ entry into our territories.

“Whilst the outcome is clearly different from what we had intended, our relationship and partnership with SA Rugby has been greatly strengthened and enhanced by this experience.”

Jurie Roux, the CEO of SA Rugby, added: “This is a huge disappointment, but time had simply run out.

“No stone was left unturned to try and find a solution to the challenges – including basing our teams for ten 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.”

The four South African teams are still expected to join an expanded Pro16 next season.

Can’t get to the shops? You can download the digital edition of Rugby World straight to your tablet or subscribe to the print edition to get the magazine delivered to your door.

Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.