Explained: how the 2017/18 Guinness PRO14 championship will actually work
Who will play in it?
There will be two conferences comprising two groups of seven teams with an equal geographical split.
Conference A: Ospreys, Cardiff Blues, Munster, Connacht, Glasgow, Zebre, Cheetahs.
Conference B: Scarlets, Dragons, Leinster, Ulster, Edinburgh, Treviso, Southern Kings.
The initial conferences were based on last season’s PRO 12 rankings and will be recalibrated following each season.
How will the format work?
The teams in each conference will play each other home and away and the teams from Conference A will also play all teams from Conference B once.
To maintain the current rota of derby matches, teams from the same country will play each other twice even if they are in different conferences.
As a result, there will be a regular season of 21 games, down one from the current number of 22. If a team has only 10 home matches this season, they will have 11 next season and vice versa.
How will the play-offs work?
The winners of each conference will advance to the semi-finals and earn home advantage.
Teams in second and third in each conference will play off to decide the other two semi-finalists with those ranked second in each conference earning home advantage in this fixture.
What about qualification for Europe?
The top three non-South African clubs from each conference will qualify for the Champions Cup, while the non-South African team with the highest points total outside of those six teams across both conferences will claim the final Champions Cup place. The other five European sides will go into the Challenge Cup. As it stands, South African sides cannot qualify for European competition for at least three seasons.
Will Irish clubs have the same number of derbies?
Yes, because apart from those derbies within the conference, they had already sought guarantees that Irish provinces would retain the same amount of derby matches. In the case of Scotland and Italy, who have only two competing teams, they may have to play three derbies.
When will South African sides play home games?
To provide teams travelling to South Africa with the best possible preparation, all games will be on a Saturday.
This allows visiting teams a seven-day turnaround and to 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.