Kings’ PRO14 season seems done and dusted after showpiece Cardiff final canned

AGGRESSIVE PLAY: In what could the the Southern Kings’ last match of the season, Connacht’s Tiernan O'Halloran, right, goes on the attack during the match at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth earlier this month
AGGRESSIVE PLAY: In what could the the Southern Kings’ last match of the season, Connacht’s Tiernan O'Halloran, right, goes on the attack during the match at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth earlier this month
Image: Michael Sheehan/Gallo Images

Any prospects of the Isuzu Southern Kings completing their Guinness PRO14 season appear to be dead in the water after the competition’s organisers decided to cancel their grand showpiece final.

The Kings had been scheduled to face Scottish side Edinburgh at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Saturday, but that fixture became one of Covid-19’s victims.

When the competition was initially put on lockdown, the Kings still had eight league matches to play.

Apart from cancelling the final which should have been played on June 6 in the Welsh city of Cardiff, PRO14  also announced the indefinite suspension of their season.

As things stand, the Kings’ best chance of seeing any action this season will be if they get an invitation to take part in a mooted SA derby league.

SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux said the national rugby body was in ongoing discussions with stakeholders about a number of competition models that could be implemented.

“SA Rugby is evaluating all our competition structures, with a view to restructuring it in the interim so that we are able to afford game time to all our franchise and provincial teams,” Roux said.

“Obviously, nothing can happen in the next few weeks until the ‘period of social distancing’, as instructed by President Cyril Ramaphosa, has lapsed.

“We are considering local derby matches between our SA teams. We must still drill into the specifics, but we are confident we will be able to put a feasible plan on the table that will be suitable for everyone.

“We are working closely with our broadcast partner, SuperSport, and other important stakeholders and will announce plans once we are in a position to do so,” Roux said.

The board of Celtic Rugby DAC, the company that operates PRO14,  met by teleconference this week and agreed upon a strict list of criteria that would enable the Championship to recommence.

The participating unions of the Guinness PRO14 are the Federazione Italiana Rugby (FIR), Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU), Scottish Rugby Union (SRU), SA Rugby Union (Saru) and the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU).

The PRO14 Championship is made up of 14 clubs — four Irish, four Welsh, two Scottish, two Italian and two SA teams — who compete in two conferences to reach the quarterfinals, semifinals and final.

“However, no decision on a definitive recommencement date can be made until four key criteria can be met within our respective competing territories,” the DAC stated.

• Public health authorities cease to prohibit the resumption of sport and group training;

• Travel restrictions between our territories are lifted;

• No forced isolation or quarantine orders are in force when visiting our territories; and

• Player welfare is safeguarded, including requirement for a suitable pre-recommencement training period, to be established in conjunction with the high-performance personnel at our participating unions and teams

“Due to the evolving situation, unfortunately the board had to take the further decision to cancel the PRO14 final at Cardiff City Stadium, set to take place on June 20,” PRO14 said in a statement.

“Refunds will be made automatically to all who have already purchased tickets.

“Proposals regarding how to restart the season will be reviewed in the near future.

“PRO14 Rugby is working with key stakeholders to carefully examine several proposals that can be implemented and delivered in order to close out the season — albeit at a later date.

“Should any final be played as part of the 2019/20 season it will be hosted by the team with the highest ranking based upon league records from this campaign.

“When there are positive indicators on the criteria listed above, PRO14 Rugby will provide another update.

“Everyone across the Guinness PRO14 [competition] would urge fans and everyone involved in the sport of rugby to heed the directions from their local health authorities regarding the Covid-19 outbreak and play their part in staying safe.”

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