WELSH Rugby Union chairman Gareth Davies believes Guinness PRO14 can flourish thanks to a six-year commitment by the South Africans, writes Chris Kirwan.

It was confirmed on Tuesday that the Championship has been expanded with the arrival of the Cheetahs and Southern Kings.

The South Africans bring much-needed cash – an extra £6million per season – while Davies, former Rodney Parade chief executive and now chairman of the Dragons-owning WRU, says they are committed to growing the PRO14.

“The original plan was looking at North America, but then the situation with SANZAAR, and the two South African sides being left out of the future of Super Rugby, came up,” said Davies.

“They showed an interest in coming up to play in the northern hemisphere.

“That was appealing, given the same time difference, and it is going to be very new and very exciting.

“Some people were worried that after two years the South Africans might have looked to get out and partner with England in a new-look Aviva Premiership.

“That’s why it was really important to nail things down and to make sure that there were no get outs.

“The commitment has come from South Africa and this competition is now going to run for six years.

“In that time we want to ensure it proves itself and will be on-going after that.”

Their introduction means the 2017/18 PRO14 will be split into two conferences with the Dragons pitted against the Port Elizabeth-based Kings, the Scarlets, Leinster, Ulster, Edinburgh and Treviso.

They will play those teams home AND away while they will also double up against Cardiff Blues and the Ospreys and play the other five teams either home OR away.

“It is totally new. On the one hand people will relish the freshness of the competition, while some more cynical individuals will say it will never work,” said Davies.

“But everybody who has been involved in the discussions is very much behind it. South Africa are one of the top rugby-playing nations in the word and we have two of their top sides playing in the new PRO14.

“We have protected all the local derbies and, all in all, it has come out as a fresh, exciting competition. If I was still a player I would be very excited by it.”