Dual tournament approach to Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup
The Guinness PRO14 have confirmed that due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, the upcoming Rainbow Cup will now adopt a dual-tournament approach with no cross-hemisphere fixtures.
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 due to the heightened restrictions caused by South Africa’s presence on the red list of the territories involved. All options for the South African teams to travel to Europe safely were explored and exhausted by the league.
Glasgow Warriors will therefore still play five matches in the upcoming tournament, beginning with this Saturday's trip to face Benetton at the Stadio Comunale di Monigo.
What efforts were made to incorporate the South African teams?
In total, 12 venues across the UK, Ireland and Europe were considered 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. SA Rugby also explored another four locations separate to this. Further, destinations in the Middle East were also explored as potential hosts for fixtures involving South African teams.
A wide stakeholder group, led by a working group between the tournament team at PRO14 Rugby and SA Rugby, produced a long list of various options for entry of the teams, base camps and high-standard medical protocols across the past four months to cater for different scenarios.
How will the dual tournament approach work?
The ‘northern’ Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup will still take place on the dates previously published. 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.
The ‘southern’ tournament will be called Rainbow Cup SA and will include the Cell C Sharks, DHL Stormers, Emirates Lions and Vodacom Bulls with full details to be confirmed shortly. These games will be available in the UK and Ireland with PRO14 Rugby’s current TV partners.
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 2021/22 season onwards will be made public shortly.
The full fixture schedule for the Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup, including kick-off times and broadcaster information, will be released shortly.
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 projectplanning involved to this point ahead of the 2021/22 season."
A Scottish Rugby spokesperson said: "While it is disappointing the Rainbow Cup cannot progress in its intended format we would like to thank colleagues at Guinness PRO14 for all their efforts in developing and progressing this concept. Covid-19 has impacted sport at numerous levels and the safety of everyone in this pandemic must remain the priority.
"We look forward to the Rainbow Cup in its new, revised format and wish Edinburgh Rugby and Glasgow Warriors well in their up-coming matches.”