What exactly is the Rainbow Cup?
While local rugby fans have had to come to terms with several new competitions – like Super Rugby Unlocked, the SA Cup and the Franchise Cup (which still has to be launched) – the Rainbow Cup effectively replaces Super Rugby.
In a groundbreaking move by SA Rugby, in conjunction with the ProRugby stakeholders, the four former Super Rugby teams – the Sharks, Stormers, Bulls and Lions – will enter European club rugby for the first time in the form of the Rainbow Cup this April.
The Rainbow Cup will take place in a time slot when the four big local teams played Super Rugby in the past and does not replace the already existing ProRugby competition, which the four “Super Rugby” teams are likely to play in as well, dependent on Covid and whatever restrictions might be in place later in the year.
The four SA “Super” teams will join 12 clubs from Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Italy in the Rainbow Cup competition.
Each South African team will make a three-match tour to Europe in the Rainbow Cup, while all 12 Pro14 clubs will play in South Africa.
With the final fixture list still to be confirmed, the Rainbow Cup will kick off on April 17 and conclude with a final on June 19.
The current Pro14 competition (without any South African teams because of Covid) will conclude with a final on March 27.
With heavy fields, wind and rain awaiting the SA teams, Lions coach Cash van Rooyen said he’d have to change his approach to training somewhat, with conditioning a key factor, while Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie – whose team was kicked out of ProRugby to make way for the four “Super” sides – said the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers were in for a surprise or two.
“The better time zones are a big bonus, but it took us a while to come to terms with conditions over there, which are very tough,” said Fourie. “The European teams are very focused on the set-piece and also place lots of emphasis on the breakdown points and collision areas.”
Stormers coach John Dobson said the local teams would have to look closely at the composition of their squads for the tournament.
“We have already started to look at expanding our squad depth,” said Dobson. “It will be exciting to test ourselves against quality sides like Ulster and Munster.”
The Rainbow Cup will allow some of South Africa’s top players to come up against men who they might face in the form of the British and Irish Lions later this year. And should the tour be moved to Europe from South Africa (because of Covid concerns) the competition will afford the Springbok players an opportunity to get used to the heavy fields and different demands ahead of that three-Test series.
“The timing of the Rainbow Cup is perfect,” said Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus.
“It will finally get our Super teams back into international competition after a year’s absence and comes at the ideal time as preparation for the series against the British and Irish Lions,” he said.
The 16 teams will be divided into two pools of eight, made up of two Irish, two South African, two Welsh, one Italian and one Scottish club.
Each team will play one game against each pool opponent and the sides that finish top of their pools will face off in a final on June 19.