Another D-day looms for Cheetahs

The Cheetahs board will meet on Friday to determine whether to ‘abide by the outcome of Tuesday’s Saru meeting or to go the legal route’. CRAIG LEWIS reports.

For all intents and purposes, the future of the Cheetahs was a central item on the agenda when SA Rugby held a special general meeting on Tuesday to map out plans for competitions going forward, and which teams would be involved.

It was subsequently confirmed that South Africa’s four Vodacom Super Rugby franchises are set to join an expanded PRO Rugby competition, while the Cheetahs could be left in limbo, with possible participation in a newly-proposed ‘Super Series’ tournament still to be confirmed as an alternative.

READ: Cheetahs out of PRO Rugby

The possible ‘Super 8’ is touted to include two teams from New Zealand and Australia, and one each from South Africa, South Sea Islands, Japan and Argentina.

On Tuesday evening, the Cheetahs confirmed in a statement that they were ‘reviewing their options’, but outgoing managing director of the Free State Cheetahs, Harold Verster, reiterated the Cheetahs ‘reserve their rights’.

The Free State Cheetahs board will now meet on Friday to decide on the way forward.

‘The options are to abide by the outcome of Tuesday’s Saru meeting or to go the legal route,’ Verster commented. ‘We also need to meet with our sponsors to determine their interest in the proposed Super series and whether we can expect the same level of support that we enjoyed over the past few years.’

Prior to Tuesday’s special general meeting, the Cheetahs, supporters and past players mounted a support campaign, with a motorcade parade taking place in Bloemfontein on Monday.

Cheetahs supporters proudly displayed the Currie Cup as the current champions, with former Springbok Joggie Jansen and other big names joining in. Many internationally-known rugby icons such as Morne du Plessis, Frik du Preez, Wynand Claassen and Theuns Stofberg voiced their support to keep the Cheetahs in international rugby.

The Cheetahs have also made it known that they could pursue a legal case to play in PRO14 until at least the 2022-23 season, and are said to have briefed top senior advocate Wim Trengove.

‘I wish to thank the whole of the Free State province for their support over the past couple of months,’ Verster added. ‘I don’t think any other franchise in the country will be able to mobilise a motorcade of the magnitude we saw in Bloemfontein on Monday.

‘What makes it even more special, was that it originated spontaneously from the ranks of our supporters and former Free State players. I have no doubt that it contributed to a large degree to the decision to retain the Cheetahs’ franchises status.’

COLUMN: SA Rugby looking long-term with PRO14 move

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Craig Lewis