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Pro12 lining up Super Rugby’s Cheetahs as expansion franchise

South African Super Rugby team the Cheetahs has been invited to join the Pro12 pan-European competition, according to the BBC.

The UK public-service broadcaster reported that the Bloemfontein-based franchise is being lined up by Pro12 organisers as part of the league's overseas expansion plan.

The club is at risk of being cut from the Super Rugby competition after organiser Sanzaar, the umbrella body for the national unions in Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, said the league would be trimmed from 18 teams to 15 for the 2018 season. The change will result in the loss of two South African franchises and one Australian team.

The Cheetahs and Port Elizabeth-based outfit the Kings are reported to be the South African teams that are most at risk.

The Pro12 is currently made up of teams from Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales. Organisers have in the past spoken of their wish to expand the tournament further afield, with the United States and mainland Europe having last year been mooted as possible locations for a new franchise.

The BBC said that the Pro12 confirmed that discussions between stakeholders over the addition of the Cheetahs have taken place, but the league added that so far no formal request has been made to the team.