Playing all of their fixtures against the European sides on foreign shores is going to prejudice the hopes of the four South African teams in the Rainbow Cup, but Sharks coach Sean Everitt believes his team should still be competitive given their history of travelling well during Super Rugby.
The Rainbow Cup starts on 24 April, with the South African franchises playing local derbies on the first three weekends. They then cross over to the Northern Hemisphere to play the existing Pro14 sides.
While the fixtures for Rounds 4-6 have not yet been confirmed due to uncertainty over travel plans, those matches will all definitely be in Europe.
“We only have three domestic games and two of ours are not at Kings Park, but those are the cards we have been dealt and we just have to get on with it,” Everitt said at the weekend.
“But the Sharks have always travelled well and I expect the same. We will be there for two weeks before our first game so we can get used to conditions and I don’t think conditions will be as severe at the end of May as some people are expecting.
“We are looking forward to the challenge of playing against new teams and creating new memories and great experiences.
“But I think Super Rugby will be missed because it suited our style of play; we want to attack, it’s in our DNA, and it was a great competition.
“Our squad will stay the same as now; we’re only allowed to sign 45 players and I think we have to take 42 of them over there.”
While the beloved free-flowing play of Super Rugby will be missed, Bulls coach Jake White said some of the less appealing features of the southern hemisphere competition once it expanded – such as the lopsided nature of the draw – will be repeated in the Rainbow Cup.
“We know our first three games are in South Africa so that’s our focus. But it’s not ideal to be playing all the European teams away, especially if conditions get helluva tough,” White said.
“But it’s going to be the same for all the South African sides. The Rainbow Cup is a very unique competition in that you have six games to get into the final and four of ours are away from home.
“But we’re lucky because some teams (the Sharks) have five away games. It’s a great opportunity to prepare for when we actually do play Pro16, but it’s a bit like Super Rugby if you didn’t have the favourable draw. Like if you had to play the Crusaders, Chiefs and Hurricanes away, you had a much more difficult draw than the teams that played them in South Africa.”