The draw for the first round of the European Cup and the European Challenge 2022/2023 is held this Tuesday, June 28 at midday. First, this year: five South African clubs are joining the competition. Thus, Stade Toulousain could end up playing one of its matches in … Durban! Explanations.
Cape Stormers, Pretoria Bulls, Durban Sharks, Johannesburg Lions and Bloemfontein Cheetahs. Five franchises from South Africa which will compete in the European cups next season! Rugby… The first three will play in the Champions Cup, the last two in the European Challenge. The organizers of the European rugby cups announced this opening on Thursday June 2.
They will know this Tuesday, June 28 their opponents of the first round. And Stade Toulousain could inherit one of these franchises.
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But how do South African franchises end up joining the European Cups?
The first three named have been playing the United Rugby Championship since last season with Irish, Welsh, Scottish and Italian provinces. The Stormers finished 2nd, the Bulls 4th, and the Sharks 5th. Members of a European League, these teams therefore qualified through a “classic” bias, alongside formations such as the Irish from Leinster, Munster and Ulster or even the Scots from Edinburgh and the Welsh from the Ospreys .
Trip to Durban for Stade Toulousain?
Same process for the Lions, in the European Challenge. The Cheetahs were invited by the EPCR, organizer of the European Cups.
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Because, it must be said, these arrivals are thrilling the big bosses of European rugby: “The arrival of the Stormers, the Bulls, the Sharks and the Lions will bring to our tournaments a really interesting touch of rugby from the southern hemisphere, world-renowned players and new supporters”, assured Dominic McKay, president of the EPCR. The will of the body being to “continue to develop the tournaments to make them the best in club rugby”, which means “continuing to offer solid commercial income to our leagues and creating an ever higher level of exciting matches for our fans”.
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On the other hand, on the field side, he tenses up a lot of players in European rugby, including in France: “Can we still call it the European Cup? questioned not long ago in the columns of The Dispatch Clement Poitrenaud, Stade Toulousain full-back coach. In my opinion, no. Sportingly, these are new challenges that are super exciting. It’s a different kind of rugby, against new players. After on the format of the competition itself, I find it difficult to understand. It’s as if we were entering South Africa into the Six Nations Tournament. It wouldn’t be the same competition. I’m still old fashioned and attached to a few traditions and it’s true that this competition distorts for me. It becomes another competition. That’s why this season is so important. Somewhere there is a bit of nostalgia to say that this is the last time we will play this competition.”
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Finalist of the Top 14, Castres, placed in hat 1, will benefit from a rather affordable draw on paper, even if it will be better to inherit in hat 4 from the London Irish than from Exeter on the English side (Edinburgh or the Ospreys on the Celts). For Toulouse, placed in hat 2 as a Top 14 semi-finalist, it will be Gloucester or Sale and Munster or… the Durban Sharks.