The Cheetahs will compete in Europe again, after accepting one of two invitations from organisers for the 2023-24 EPCR Challenge Cup, it was announced on Thursday.
The 2023 Currie Cup champions, the Cheetahs and Georgia’s Black Lion – who played in the Currie Cup First Division last year – will compete in the tournament next season.
It will be the second successive season for the Cheetahs in the Challenge Cup, where the Free State outfit reached the knockout stages in 2022-23 on debut before losing to eventual winners Toulon.
The Black Lion will make history by becoming the first Georgian club to play in one of EPCR’s main professional tournaments.
The Cheetahs will be based in Amsterdam, Netherlands for home matches against European opponents, and will face Oyonnax, Pau, the Sharks and Zebre Parma in Pool 1.
The pool stage match against the Sharks will be played in either Bloemfontein or Durban, depending on the outcome of the current fixture scheduling process.
Black Lion go into Pool 3 where they will take on two former tournament winners in Gloucester and Clermont Auvergne, as well as Castres and Scarlets with their two home matches staged in Tbilisi.
“We are pleased to have been invited to compete again in the EPCR Challenge Cup and after qualifying for the knockout stage last season, we believe we have the capacity to perform to a higher level in 2023-24,” Cheetahs CEO Ross van Reenen said.
“We are looking forward to making a big impression in Pool 1 of the tournament.”
EPCR chairman Dominic McKay added: “The inclusion of Black Lion and the return of the Cheetahs reflect a continuing commitment to widen the scope of our tournaments and to showcase new, exciting talent for fans worldwide.
“The Cheetahs have already enhanced the EPCR Challenge Cup with their performance last season, and we are confident that the Georgians’ passion and physicality will further raise the intensity of the tournament.”
The two clubs were offered invitations to participate following a detailed and competitive tender process during which EPCR received interest from across Europe and beyond. EPCR will continue to engage with Rugby Europe to discuss future plans.
Full details of the fixture schedules for the 2023-24 Challenge and Champions cups will be announced as soon as possible, with the tournaments set to kick off with the first round of pool stage matches on the weekend of 8/9/10 December.
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) July 6, 2023
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