Celtic Rugby and the South Africa Rugby Union have finally confirmed that the Toyota Cheetahs and Southern Kings will join the competition in time for the upcoming season.
It has been widely known for weeks but was only made official in a statement released by the newly re-branded Guinness Pro14 this morning.
In the statement, it says the new structure is just the first phase of expansion as the Guinness Pro14 “becomes a truly global tournament.”
With the addition of the two new sides from South Africa, the tournament will take on a new structure, breaking the league up into two conferences:
• Munster (IRFU)
• Ospreys (WRU)
• Glasgow Warriors (SRU)
• Cardiff Blues (WRU)
• Connacht (IRFU)
• Zebre Rugby Club (FIR)
• Toyota Cheetahs (SA Rugby)
• Scarlets (WRU)
• Leinster (IRFU)
• Ulster (IRFU)
• Edinburgh (SRU)
• Benetton Rugby (FIR)
• Dragons (WRU)
• Southern Kings (SA Rugby)
Each team will play 21 regular season games — one less than the previous format — and face each other at least once.
Connacht will play each team in Conference A twice (Home and Away), they will also play Leinster and Ulster twice (Home and Away) as part of protecting the derby fixtures. As for the rest of the teams in Conference B they will play them once (Either Home or Away)
For the first time, quarter-finals will be played, with six teams (three from each conference) reaching that stage and the top three teams from each conference will also qualify for Champions Cup.
The team with the highest points total outside of those six teams across both conferences will claim the final Champions Cup place.
The South African teams will not be eligible for the Champions Cup at present.
In order to provide teams travelling to and from South Africa with the best possible preparation, all games in that country will be played on a Saturday.
This allows visiting teams a seven-day turnaround and have five days leading into the fixture involving no travel.
Any team scheduled to play twice in South Africa in the season will play the two new sides back-to-back where possible.