The South African Rugby Union has confirmed that it is moving its four leading franchises from Super Rugby to an expanded Pro16 from 2021. 

The Bulls, Lions, Stormers and Sharks will switch their focus to the northern hemisphere while the Cheetahs - who joined the league prior to the 2017-18 season - will make way. 

Southern Kings, the other franchise who joined in 2017, were disbanded this month after entering voluntary liquidation. 

SA Rugby confirmed their decision after a special general meeting this afternoon, attended by 13 voting member unions.

SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux said the franchises were excited about their move northwards but indicated this move was also precipitated by the "unilateral decisions" of the New Zealand rugby authorities. 

"Our members are excited about the prospect of closer alignment with the PRO Rugby Championship and seeking a northern hemisphere future, but we would not have been taking this decision but for actions elsewhere," Roux said after the meeting.

New Zealand Rugby announced in July that it intended to enter its Super Rugby sides into a competition that does not include South African franchises in 2021.

SA Rugby did, however, say it would continue discussions with SANZAAR about entering a South African team into a possible "Super Series" format and said they remained to committed to the Rugby Championship.

"We will advise our SANZAAR partners of the General Meeting's decision," Roux said. "We remain part of the joint venture and will pursue the 'Super Series’ discussions in good faith."

Pro14 has been keen to add more South African teams to the mix with Leinster first team coach Stuart Lancaster enthusing about the possibility, saying it would be good for the competition.