PRO14 expansion explained: How the new competition will look

Scarlets captain John Barclay lifts the trophy following their victory in the 2017 PRO12 final. Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Tuesday brought official confirmation that South African sides the Cheetahs and Southern Kings would join an expanded PRO14 competition.

It is a move that had been in the pipeline since the two franchises were discarded by Super Rugby last month, but what does it mean for the regional tournament?

ESPN breaks down everything you need to know about the new championship ahead of the upcoming season.


The most obvious change to the competition is that it will now be split into two conferences of seven teams.

These divisions have been drawn based on results from last season, with two teams from Ireland and Wales, plus one each from Italy, Scotland and South Africa.

Each team will play 21 regular season games, one less than in last season's 12-team championship. These consist of home and away fixtures against the six teams in their conference, plus a one-off fixture against the seven other teams and two derbies.

The two conferences will be redrawn ahead of each season based on the previous campaign's results but will always contain the same number of teams from each union.


All games played in South Africa will be scheduled on Saturdays to allow away teams five 'clean days' that do not involve travelling.

Flights between Europe and South Africa will be overnight to ensure players get maximum rest. Training facilities and accommodation will meet standards expected in Super Rugby.

For teams scheduled to play more than once in South Africa the aim is to play back-to-back games on a mini tour. The fixture list has been drafted and will be confirmed next week.


Under the new format the top three teams from each conference will qualify for the end of season playoffs.

The winner of each conference will automatically head into a home semifinal, while the runners-up host the third-placed team from the opposing pool in the quarterfinals.

The quarterfinal winners will travel to the conference winners to play for a place in the final.


The six teams who qualify for the playoffs will earn a place in the European Champions Cup for the following season.

South African teams are ineligible for continental competition, so should they make the top three then their place will be taken by the team ranked below them.

The team with the highest points total at the end of the season that has not qualified automatically for the Champions Cup will be handed the PRO14's seventh spot in that competition.

The remaining five teams will all play in the European Challenge Cup.