JOHANNESBURG - The Pro14 kicks off on Friday with the Cheetahs in action against Ulster and their fellow South African debutants the Southern Kings taking on reigning champions Scarlets on Saturday.
Independent Media rugby writer Jacques van der Westhuyzen has compiled all of the information you need to know about the tournament and 14 teams taking par.
- Involves teams from Italy (two teams), Ireland (four), Scotland (two), Wales (four) and now South Africa (two)
- Defending champions: Scarlets
- Most titles: Leinster and Ospreys (four each)
- Season runs from 1 September 2017 to 26 May 2018
- Teams are split into two conferences, A and B
- Conference A comprises of: Cardiff Blues, Connacht Rugby, Glasgow Warriors, Munster Rugby, Ospreys, Cheetahs and Zebre Rugby Club
- Conference B comprises of: Benetton Rugby (Treviso), (Newport Gwent) Dragons, Edinburgh Rugby, Leinster Rugby, Scarlets (Llanelli), Southern Kings, Ulster Rugby
- All the teams will play 21 regular season matches; spread across the conferences, within the conferences and, derby matches will be played as well
Benetton Treviso: Established 1932, play out of Treviso, no titles. Trivia: Franco Smith played for them between 2003 and 2006 before coaching them between 2007 and 2013. Former Bulls back Marius Goosen is their director of rugby and they’re coached by Kieran Crowley.
Cardiff Blues: Established 2003, play out of Cardiff, no titles. Trivia: They’re captained by Wales prop Gethin Jenkins and also boast British and Irish Lions skipper Sam Warburton in their ranks. Former Golden Lions locks George Earle and Franco van der Merwe are also on their books.
Cheetahs: Established 2005, play out of Bloemfontein, no titles. Trivia: This will be their first taste of European club rugby. They’ll be coached by Rory Duncan, and boast such stars as Francois Venter, Sergeal Petersen, Makazole Mapimpi, Ox Nche, Oupa Mohoje and Sevens star Cecil Afrika.
Connacht: Established 1885, play out of Galway, one title. Trivia: They’re the team former Lions No 10 Marnitz Boshoff has just left to join the Bulls and also the side former Western Province star Quinn Roux plays for.
Dragons: Established 2003, play out of Newport, no titles. Trivia: A team with a very strong SA flavour; former WP players Pat Howard and Brok Harris, former Springbok and Bulls fullback Zane Kirchner, former Cheetahs star Sarel Pretorius, former Leopards man Rynard Landman, SA-born fullback Carl Meyer.
Edinburgh: Established 1872, play out of Edinburgh, no titles. Trivia: Another team with a few names fans will recognise, among them prop WP Nel and lock Anton Bresler, while former Bulls junior wing Duhan van der Merwe is looking for a big season and so, too, former Kings loosie Cornell du Preez.
Glasgow Warriors: Established 1872, play out of Glasgow, one title. Trivia: Former Chiefs boss Dave Rennie is now the man in charge, while former Stormers prop Oli Kebble has joined for the new season. Former Lions skipper Josh Strauss played for the Warriors for five years, but recently joined Sale Sharks.
Leinster: Established 1879, play out of Dublin, four titles. Trivia: One of their head coaches is former England boss Stuart Lancaster. Former Cheetahs man Richardt Strauss is their first-choice hooker and there are four men with the surname Byrne in the team - namely Adam, Bryan, Ed and Ross.
Munster: Established 1879, play out of Limerick and Cork, three titles. Trivia: Rassie Erasmus is the current director of rugby, with Jacques Nienaber the defence coach. SA-born players in the squad include CJ Stander, Jaco Taute, Gerbrandt Grobler and Jean Kleyn.
Ospreys: Established 2003, play out of Swansea, four titles. Trivia: They play out of the same stadium as Swansea City, namely Liberty Stadium, and have in their squad former Lions and WP prop Brian Mujati and Krugersdorp-born wing Hanno Dirksen.
Scarlets: established 2003, play out of Llanelli, two titles. Trivia: The defending champions are first up against the Kings and SA-born players who’ll be in action for them include prop Werner Kruger, locks David Bulbring, Rynier Bernardo and outside back DTH van der Merwe.
Kings: Established 2009, play out of Port Elizabeth, no titles. Trivia: Deon Davids’ squad enjoyed a good Super Rugby campaign, but their squad boasts no national players and have had to rely on other unions’ loan-players to fill their squad. Hooker Michael Willemse will captain the team.
Ulster: Established 1879, play out of Belfast, one title. Trivia: The team Ruan Pienaar became a hero at before moving to Montpellier this season. Keep an eye out for Souther Africans Marcell Coetzee, Jean Deysel, Robbie Diack, Wiehahn Herbst, Louis Ludik, and Schalk van der Merwe.
Zebre: Established 1973, play out of Parma, no titles. Trivia: A team that last season boasted several South Africans, including hooker Sidney Tobias and Lloyd Greeff, but now only has two SA players on their books, namely Derick Minnie and Johan Meyer.