THE GUINNESS PRO14 could soon have a South American element after the Argentinian Rugby Union (UAR) made initial overtures for the Jaguares to be added to the cross-border competition.
Rugby in the southern hemisphere was turned on its head by the global pandemic and the defection of the South African franchises from Super Rugby to Europe.
Both Australia and New Zealand have since formed their own internal Super Rugby competitions leaving the Jaguares, who made the 2019 final, homeless.
It has forced the UAR to lay out initial yet hugely ambitious plans for the Jaguares to be based in Bilbao, Spain while competing in the PRO14 – a competition soon to become the PRO16.
The PRO14 already includes teams from Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales. It will expand to 16 teams next season with the addition of South African franchises Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers.
Should the PRO14’s board vote to allow the Jaguares into their competition, it would take up to two years for them to be given official entry. From the UAR’s perspective, it is needed quickly.
Following the Jaguares’ exclusion from Super Rugby, a host of top Argentinian internationals have joined European clubs. They include Gonzalo Bertranou, Julian Montoya and Santiago Carreras who have signed for the Dragons, Leicester Tigers and Gloucester respectively.
The UAR believe it is important to have a top-class domestic side of their own to give the country’s best up-and-coming players the opportunity of playing professional rugby at home.
It is understood private equity firm CVC, who recently acquired a 28 per cent share in the PRO14, are keen on further expansion.
They believe the potential inclusion of the Jaguares would likely bring more TV revenue into the competition. Such a move wouldn’t go down well in Wales. Supporters there are unhappy at the cross-border element of the competition and there is a longing for more Anglo-Welsh fixtures.
But with CVC also owning a 27 per cent share in England’s Gallagher Premiership, there is the option of amalgamating both leagues in the future to maximise profit.