between opportunities and dissatisfaction, the South African horizon of Europe

Although this decision is officially known since April 27th, we can hear that a trip…

Although this decision has been officially known since April 27th, we can hear that a drive of more than 6 hours and 670 kilometers does not make her laugh. However, one would be tempted to suggest that they take advantage of the Corons. Because from next season they may have to take a flight of more than 10 hours to the land of the Boks to participate in such a poster…

The integration of South African provinces into the EPCR competitions from next season – Champions Cup and Challenge Cup – is a well-known project. But that prospect became very concrete about ten days ago, on the evening of day 17 of the United Rugby Championship (URC), the competition that replaced the former Celtic League and now brings together the Irish, Scottish and Welsh provinces. since the beginning of the season South Africans.

Officialization pending

The Sharks (Durban), the Bulls (Pretoria) and the Stormers (Cape Town) have confirmed their presence in the top eight of the URC and confirmed their qualification for the Champions Cup. The Lions (Johannesburg) are to be engaged in the Challenge Cup. The EPCR has not yet formalized the information: the body should do so in the week before the final rounds of its competitions (27th and 28th May), which should therefore in fact award the last European titles. A “board” on Saturday at 11:00 p.m. is to ratify this leap into a new world.

“I’m not at all for this integration” Vincent Merling

On the EPCR side, it is estimated that the main lines have been decided. European teams that have inherited a South African opponent in the pool will have to travel to the other hemisphere. “It will probably not take 48 hours, but over a week,” continues one actor in the file: “If there is no time difference with South Africa, it will probably be necessary to stay there for four to five days to get away from it to recover the trip. “Knowing that the EPCR will take care of everything…


Everything is planned or almost… Except for the more or less epidermal reaction to the break with the European DNA of the competitions. A reluctance that Clément Poitrenaud, responsible for the back of five-time European champions Stade Toulousain, expressed in particular last week: “For me, it distorts this competition. “An opinion strongly supported by the President of the Stade Rochelais, Vincent Merling: ‘I am not at all in favor of this integration. It distorts the identity of the European Cup, a fantastic competition. Whether it suits the needs of the Irish, Welsh or Scots is one thing. But I’m totally against it. Even if we change the name, how will we look if there is a South African champion? »

A resistance that did not prevent the members of the LNR steering committee from voting unanimously in favor of this development. If he no longer sits on the committees or in the league office, Laurent Marti understands this decision. “For the French, it’s not a priority competition: 95% of coaches, players or fans will answer that they would rather be French than European champions,” estimates the President of UBB. Also, it’s superfluous: it’s always the same champions! When French rugby is in good cycles, it creates hegemony. What’s the point of making a European Cup if you only play French clubs? »

TV rights

The Bordeaux leader sees the integration of the South Africans as a way to combat these shortcomings: “They will bring new life: we will face rugby, which is still world champions, one of the strongest in the world! We will be able to set up stronger trips and partner operations. In that sense, it’s good news to dust off our European Cup and restore interest in it. »

An interest that is also financial. As competition opens up to new markets, television rights could evolve. That is certainly the ambition of rugby players when, as far as France is concerned, the rights of France Télévisions and beIN Sports expire at the end of the season. “We are in the bidding cycle,” we confirm on the part of the EPCR.

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