IT has been confirmed that five South African sides will compete in next years European Champions and Challenge Cup competitions with three of the five involved in URC quarter-final action this weekend.
Three will enter into the Champions Cup while two will feature in the Challenge Cup.
Next year’s EPCR showpiece Finals will take place on May 19 and 20 at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium where Munster were defeated in the quarter-finals of this year’s competition.
After a number of seasons in the URC (previously Pro16), the South African clubs will now face English and French opposition for the first time.
After finishing in the top eight of the URC this season, the DHL Stormers, Cell C Sharks and Vodacom Bulls will play in the Heineken Champions Cup, while the Emirates Lions and the Toyota Cheetahs will contest the EPCR Challenge Cup.
The formats for next season’s Heineken Champions Cup and EPCR Challenge Cup will be announced shortly, in conjunction with details of the Pool Draws for both tournaments which will be staged towards the end of the month.
Speaking to springboks.rugby, South Africa Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux said,
“Our five franchise teams will now play in two new territories against opponents we’ve never played before.
“We’ve already experienced the intensity of the Vodacom URC, and now we’ll also face the top teams from England and France. We would like to thank all relevant stakeholders who have been involved in the negotiation process – the board and staff of EPRC, the Vodacom URC, Premiership Rugby in England and the Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR) in France.
“It has happened earlier than planned, as we started this process more than two years ago after Super Rugby imploded, but this has now become reality, which really is great news for South African 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 Vodacom 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 which have caught the imagination of rugby supporters around the globe for more than two decades.”
Munster will have had the experience of playing against the South Africans with a mixed record against the Springboks this year. At Thomond Park, they defeated the Stormers and the Sharks in successive weeks but lost to both the Bulls and Lions away from home.
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