Premiership Rugby is considering revamping the Anglo-Welsh Cup which could see South Africa's Currie Cup sides joining the tournament when the new global season comes into play.
It is understood discussions are at an early stage, but it would fill the vacant weekends created by rugby's new schedule which comes into play post-2019. The proposed new season runs from September through to June and sees no Aviva Premiership rugby played during the international windows.
With those weekends free, it is understood that one consideration is to offer South Africa's provincial sides the chance to join the Anglo-Welsh Cup, suggesting a new approach based on time zones rather than hemispheres.
South African rugby is currently dealing with having two franchises cut from their current stable of six in Super Rugby and there have been previous suggestions that their stakeholders would be keen to forge closer links with northern hemisphere rugby.
The new-look season has raised concerns among players. With player welfare already a huge issue within the game, the new schedule would see internationals playing rugby across 11 months.
But Premiership Rugby CEO Mark McCafferty says the new calendar would involve more breaks for players.
"There's some absence of knowledge of the detail around that," McCafferty said. "The International Rugby Players' Association was involved in the meetings with the unions, clubs and World Rugby for designing the new season structure.
"I'm convinced the opportunity for mid-season breaks for non-international players will mean that for a large number it's much better for them. There are lots of upsides, but there is an issue to manage around the international players. The maximum number of games is not going to change."