Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup cross-hemisphere fixtures with South African clubs cancelled
"Despite a colossal effort, the South African teams were not granted the permission to travel in time to allow the Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup to be played as originally planned. With no formal approvals in place...the cup will operate dual tournaments with no cross-hemisphere fixtures"
Last Updated: 21/04/21 11:28am
Rainbow Cup fixtures between Guinness PRO14 clubs from Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Italy and the four leading South African teams have been cancelled, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic and lack of permission.
With the 2020/21 PRO14 season curtailed to a March 27 finish so that this new Rainbow Cup competition could take place, the tournament will now have to precede as northern and southern editions, according to the PRO14, with SA quartet the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers unable to arrive and play in Europe.
"With no formal approvals in place to allow the South African teams to enter the UK & Ireland for their Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup fixtures, PRO14 Rugby and SA Rugby will operate dual tournaments with no cross-hemisphere fixtures," a statement read on Wednesday.
"Despite a colossal effort, the South African teams were not granted the permission to travel in time to allow the Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup to be played as originally planned. Such challenges are not unique to rugby as many international sports have found the Covid-19 pandemic a difficult landscape to plan for.
"All options for the South African teams to travel to Europe safely were explored and exhausted by the league, this is due to the heightened restrictions caused by South Africa's presence on the red list of the territories involved.
"The fixtures for Rounds 4, 5 and 6 had already been scheduled and provided to clubs, but will now have the South African teams removed and kick-off times may be modified ahead of publishing."
According to the PRO14, a list of 12 venues in the UK, Ireland and Europe were considered over the last four months as base camps for the South African teams to operate out of or to use as a quarantine destination before entering the UK and Ireland, as were another four undisclosed locations, as well as the Middle East.
In the end, however, all plans had to be shelved with the games unable to be facilitated.
Martin Anayi, CEO of PRO14 Rugby, said: "A staggering volume of work has been undertaken to provide a number of proposals and options to accommodate this - all as we navigated the challenges of the second and third waves of Covid-19 as well as the South African variant which constantly changed the landscape we were operating in.
"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. We are looking forward to the two Rainbow Cup competitions and in due course sharing our intentions about our future partnership that will be boosted by the experiences and project-planning involved to this point ahead of the 2021/22 season.
Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby, said: "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 10 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 PRO14 also said within their statement: "This decision will have no impact on the long-term partnership between PRO14 Rugby and SA Rugby and more details about those plans and league structure for the ground-breaking 2021/22 season onwards will be made public shortly," hinting strongly at the creation of a PRO16 involving the SA teams full-time from next season.