SA Rugby have confirmed the structure of the domestic season with the return of an Argentinean XV, and full-strength Namibian and Zimbabwean teams, while the Currie Cup Premier Division will move to an earlier time-slot in the season.
The Currie Cup First Division will be bolstered by an Argentina XV and Namibia, the SuperSport Rugby Challenge format will change, and the SA Rugby U19 Championship will be played over a week in a similar format to the SA Rugby Youth Weeks.
The status quo will remain in the Currie Cup Premier Division with the Blue Bulls, Golden Lions, Sharks, Western Province, Free State Cheetahs, Pumas and Griquas competing for the title.
The competition has been moved to an earlier time slot in the season though, from 13 July to 7 September, which means that the Currie Cup Premier Division will not overlap with the Rugby World Cup, Vodacom Super Rugby or the Guinness Pro14.
The Currie Cup First Division will now feature eight teams in an action-packed tournament, with the Argentina XV and Namibia battling it out with defending champions SWD, Boland, the Down Touch Griffons, Valke, Leopards and Eastern Province.
The SuperSport Rugby Challenge will be split into two sections – North and South – with the top two teams from each section progressing to the semi-finals.
The North Section will consist of Namibia, the Leopards, Valke, Golden Lions, Blue Bulls, Pumas, Down Touch Griffons and Griquas.
In the South Section, Zimbabwe, WP, the Boland Cavaliers, SWD Eagles, Eastern Province, the Sharks and Free State Cheetahs will battle it out.
The only major change in the junior competition structures will see the SA Rugby U19 competition being converted into a compact one-week tournament comprising 16 teams – the 14 provincial unions, Limpopo and another team to be determined in due course – at a single venue.
In a new development, club players in their first year out of school will be eligible for selection in line with the competition’s objective of unearthing new promising players who have not represented their provinces at school or junior provincial level.
The SA Rugby U20 and U21 Championships show slight changes – only six teams will play in the U21 competition (DHL WP, Toyota Free State, the Vodacom Blue Bulls, Xerox Golden Lions, Cell C Sharks and Leopards).
Eastern Province will take part in the U20 competition this year with the eight other teams – the Leopards, Tafel Lager Griquas, Down Touch Griffons, Valke, ISG Pumas, Limpopo, SWD and Boland.