Former England flyhalf and now rugby pundit Stuart Barnes warns that the formation of the United Rugby Championship is just the first step in getting South Africa to join the Six Nations tournament.
Last week, the governing body of the PRO14 confirmed that Bulls, Stormers, Lions and Sharks will join the four Welsh regions, four Irish provinces, two Scottish and two Italian sides from next season.
Writing in the Sunday Times, Barnes said that he doesn't believe the new competition will capture the imagination stating: 'The Pro 14 falls short of its French and English rivals because it lacks the constant clamour of regional and local rivalry.'
'By admitting the South African quartet of heavyweights it has dispersed that most atmospheric of assets further.' Barnes added
'One South African team, at least, will qualify for the European Champions Cup. Names, nationalities, they don’t seem to matter in rugby’s growing global world.'
Barnes believes South Africa joining the Six Nations is now seemingly inevitable.
'The decision-makers, meanwhile, have their sights set higher. With South Africa in Europe at club level, it is only a matter of time before they find their way into the Six/Seven who knows how many Nations.'
'That’s where the money is — for the beleaguered South Africans, the game in general and the profit for the businessmen who market sport like any other product available from Amazon.'
'This isn’t the beginning of a new Super Tournament so much as the first stage in the move to make Test rugby the only game that counts. The rest is broadcast small fry.'
The ‘United Rugby Championship will kick off in September 2021 as the top clubs from South Africa (Sharks, Stormers, Lions and Bulls) combine with the Guinness PRO14 to create a 16-team league.
The URC will use one league table to rank the teams who will reach the knock-out stages and compete to reach the title and become the champions.
The regular season of the United Rugby Championship will take place across 18 rounds with each team’s fixtures comprising of six (6) Home AND away fixtures against their regional pool opponents and12 Home OR away fixtures against the remaining teams in the league.
One league table will be used to rank teams and after 18 rounds the top eight sides will qualify for the Play-Offs. Teams will be seeded from 1 to 8 and will receive home advantage according to their seeding.
A full round of Quarter-Finals and Semi-Finals will take place to produce two teams who will qualify for the Grand Final.