DRAGONS boss Dean Ryan admits he wouldn't like to kick off with more derby games as Guinness PRO14 chiefs plot the start of next season with just five weeks to go.

There is uncertainty over the schedule and format of the cross-border championship after the withdrawal of the Southern Kings because of financial difficulties.

Travel restrictions are set to hit the Cheetahs as well, posing problems for the current structure of two Conferences with all teams playing 21 fixtures.

"Due to on-going travel restrictions enforced by the South African government against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is not foreseen that any cross-border Guinness PRO14 games involving South Africa teams will take place until 2021," read a PRO14 statement.

"PRO14 Rugby remains in discussion with SA Rugby on when South African participation in the league can resume in the new year.

"Work is already under way to concentrate the opening 2020/21 fixtures among the 12 European-based clubs."

South Wales Argus:

The PRO14 - which looks likely to return to being the PRO12 - features teams from Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Italy and South Africa and derby games are currently being played to finish the 2019/20 season.

The next season is scheduled to get under way on the first weekend of October but teams will be reluctant to front-load the campaign with local encounters, which are traditional the big money spinners, while crowds are not allowed in the grounds.

"Everybody is aware of that challenge because revenue from derby games is huge," said director of rugby Ryan, who also sits on the Dragons' board.

"Derby games are about having packed stadiums and regions going against each other, that's where the whole drama is.

"We've talked about the difficulty about the difficulty of putting derby games in empty stadiums. They are about drama, tension and sometimes can be about more than just the rugby.

"They definitely are about people, so how they factor the season with those elements in mind is going to be difficult."

The Dragons squad travelled to Swansea in their own cars last weekend while all four regions head to Rodney Parade to finish the regular season.

Ryan's men face the Scarlets on Saturday, Cardiff Blues entertain the Ospreys in Newport on Sunday while the Arms Park is a field hospital.

The Dragons boss wasn't surprised that the Kings announced that they won't be playing again in 2020.

South Wales Argus:

"Travel to South Africa is not happening this year anyway, so I'm not sure what it tells us that we didn't understand already," said Ryan.

"I don't envy the people looking at fixture lists as a whole because of the challenge of playing in front of no crowds, when you play regional (derby) games and how you run a complex tournament like the PRO14.

"South Africa is another challenge and we are not going into a season where we know where our games are.

"I don't think the Kings thing is a surprise, people are going to have to come up with different solutions to get the PRO14 off and running (next season).

"We have been very keen our league up again and you can see the efforts that have been made by everybody behind the scenes to get this season finished.

"It is still competitive and the Scarlets are coming here looking for a play-off position. This is still a live PRO14 competition.

"Full credit to the people that have done that, the next challenge is how we map out next year and make sure the international games that raise a lot of revenue are factored in and how we keep domestic tournaments moving.

"I don't envy the person that has to do that spreadsheet and try to work out the best look."