On Friday news emerged that the South African franchises of the Cheetahs, based in Bloemfontein, and the Kings, based in Port Elizabeth, could join the Pro12 as early as next September.
Ahead of this huge potential change, we take a look at the three major stumbling blocks surrounding this introduction.
1. Travel Issues
The trip to South Africa is a long one and could have an adverse effect on spectators watching the game live. Suppose Edinburgh are playing the Kings away on a Friday night, that’s not going to be a viable game to watch for a fan based in the Scottish capital.
There is already the trips to Italy for Celtic fans, which have shown some games do suffer in terms of travelling support. The South Africans would probably suffer the most travelling far and wide to play Scottish, Irish, Welsh and Italians. It would be a long season for the Cheetahs and Kings players, and even if the trips in Super Rugby are big, the season is much shorter.
Would this mean that the new teams would have to be based in the UK? Somewhere on the continent perhaps? Or would the Celtic-based teams have to make the huge journey to South Africa?
2. Seasonal Differences
Whilst the northern hemisphere experiences winter down in South Africa they are at the height of their summer. Summer in South Africa can be extremely hot and a change in seasons would cause problems during the first season as the start of the campaign would overlap with the conclusion of the Currie Cup.
The Kings and Cheetahs contesting their home games in the summer could prove difficult and would certainly be a challenge for travelling sides to sunny South Africa.
3. European Qualification
If two South African provinces are to join the Pro12 the question of qualification into the Champions Cup arises. Would the Kings and Cheetahs be competing for qualification or would they be excluded from qualification? If they are included and constantly finishing in the top half, surely a revamp would have to be made with two teams being added and this could lead to the Challenge Cup retiring to being watered down competition filled with teams that are not going to challenge the big boys in that category such as Harlequins, Edinburgh or Castres.
If they are excluded we could see Premier Rugby and LNR kick up a fuss again about how teams can rest players if Pro12 teams only need to make the top nine places in the league to qualify for the Champions Cup.
The inclusion of the Kings and Cheetahs does look to be a financially beneficial move due to broadcasting revenue. The move through could be argued as too short-sighted when there are some significant challenges for the governing bodies to overcome.
Fred Blagden, Pundit Arena