Leinster head to South Africa to face Southern Kings and Cheetahs in new Pro14

DECLAN MURPHY Roar Guru

By , DECLAN MURPHY is a Roar Guru

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    A Leinster side beset by injuries have named an under-strength side for their 11-day odyssey to South Africa.

    Rob Kearney, Jaimie Heaslip, Dan Leavy, Gary Ringrose and Richard Strauss are just some of the players who will miss the tour, while locks Devin Toner and Scott Fardy have also been ruled out, as both their wives are in the last stages of pregnancy.

    Leinster flew out on Tuesday to face the Southern Kings on Saturday, September 16, then face the Cheetahs the following Friday, before returning to Dublin on the Saturday.

    Very few of the Leinster payers picked for the ‘tour’ have prior experience of playing in South Africa, where both games are held at an altitude greater than 4000 feet. They are the first Northern Hemisphere team to travel to the Republic as part of the all-new Pro14 league.

    Only last month, it was announced that both the Kings and the Cheetahs would be added to the Pro12, with the league now breaking off into two separate ‘conferences’.

    Conference A comprises Munster, Glasgow, Connacht, Ospreys, Cardiff, Zebre and the Cheetahs.

    Conference B comprises Scarlets, Leinster, Edinburgh, Ulster, Treviso, Dragons and the Southern Kings.

    The teams play every other team in their own conference twice, and the other conference once. Except where derbies are concerned (teams from the same country), they will play each other twice.

    Where a country has only two teams competing (e.g. Italy, South Afirca, Scotland), extra games will be played to make sure that each team plays a total of 21 fixtures – so Zebre might end up playing Edinburgh three times.

    At the end of the league, the top teams will advance to the quarter-finals. The top three teams from each conference will also qualify for inclusion in the European Rugby Champions Cup, while the next best team will also gain qualification – although this excludes the two South African teams, who aren’t eligible to compete in the ERCC.

    Pro14 bosses have announced plans to include yet more teams, including the possibility of a participant from the USA.

    The Kings and Cheetahs have not fared well in tournament’s opening games, losing both matches heavily. It will have to be seen if their fortunes take a turn for the better while playing at home. It also remains to be seen what kind of crowds Leinster can draw in South Africa.

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