Plans have been unveiled for a new United Rugby Championship (URC) next season that will feature northern and southern hemisphere teams.
The 16-team league, forged from an agreement between PRO14 Rugby and SA Rugby, will start in September.
The United Rugby Championship will kick off in September 2021, after the completion of the upcoming Currie Cup.
The competition was announced on Tuesday morning and will include 12 from the PRO14 and 4 from South Africa.
The United Rugby Championship will use one league table to rank the teams who will reach the knockout stages and compete to become the champions.
The league will consist of both a regular season and a knock-out phase. A full round of quarter-finals and semi-finals will take place to produce two teams who will qualify for the grand final.
The United Rugby Championship regular season will take place across 18 rounds with each team’s fixtures comprising six home and away fixtures against their regional pool opponents and 12 home or away fixtures against the remaining teams in the league.
After the regular phase of the league, the top eight teams will qualify for the knock-out phase/ play-offs. The teams will be seeded and will receive home advantage according to their seeding.
Eight teams from the United Rugby Championship will qualify for the following season’s European Champions Cup, every season, while the other eight will qualify for the Challenge Cup.
Pending the finalization of the contract, South African teams will play in the European Champions Cup from the 2022-23 season if the finish in the qualification spots in the previous season of the United Rugby Championship.
Since the onset of the novel Coronavirus pandemic and the collapse of the Super Rugby Championship, South Africa Rugby has been looking for ways to collaborate with other elite competitions to keep its teams on competition mode.
This partnership was evident in the Rainbow Cup where the winner of the Rainbow Cup south will face the winner of the Rainbow Cup North in Italy later this month.
Irish pool: Connacht, Leinster, Munster, Ulster
Welsh pool: Dragons, Cardiff Rugby, Ospreys, Scarlets
South African pool: Sharks, Stormers, Lions and Bulls
Italian & Scottish pool: Benetton Rugby, Edinburgh, Glasgow Warriors, Zebre Rugby Club