In a landmark expansion of its tournaments, EPCR has confirmed that the five leading clubs from South Africa will compete in the Heineken Champions Cup and the EPCR Challenge Cup from the 2022/23 season.
The Cape Town-based Stormers, the Bulls from Pretoria and the Durban-based Sharks will compete in next season’s Heineken Champions Cup after qualifying from the URC alongside Leinster, Ulster, Munster, Edinburgh and the Ospreys. The Lions from Johannesburg and the Bloemfontein-based Cheetahs will fly the flag for South Africa in the EPCR Challenge Cup.
EPCR chairman Dominic McKay said: “We are delighted to confirm that the South African clubs will be part of our expanded tournaments from the beginning of next season.
“The Stormers, Bulls, Sharks and Lions will all bring hugely exciting southern hemisphere rugby, well-known world-class players and broad new audiences into our tournaments, and we are pleased to welcome the Cheetahs into the EPCR Challenge Cup. The steps we have taken with our stakeholder leagues and with SARU ensure that we can further develop the tournaments as the pinnacle of global club rugby.
“This is a crucial step forward in bringing to life our vision of growing the game and our own tournaments, continuing to deliver strong returns for our leagues and creating an ever-higher standard of mouthwatering matches for our fans.”
The formats for next season’s Heineken Champions Cup and EPCR Challenge Cup will be announced shortly, in conjunction with details of the pool draws which will be staged towards the end of the month.
EPCR chief executive Anthony Lepage said: “This is a hugely significant step forward in realising our ambitions to grow our tournaments and bring our outstanding competitions to new audiences across the globe.
“Welcoming such well-known and well-supported South African clubs will take the competitions to a new level of elite rugby, with the best of South Africa now also able to test themselves against the best of England and France.
“We look forward to the pool draws later this month and then we will announce our fixture schedules for both tournaments so that clubs, fans and all our stakeholders can begin preparations for next season.”