The Cheetahs have responded to Joel Stransky's comments regarding the future of the Bloemfontein-based Super Rugby franchise.
The former Springbok flyhalf told New Zealand’s Radio Sport that he 'hoped the Cheetahs and Kings would be axed from Super Rugby, leaving four strong South African teams'.
According to the Cheetahs, they are currently ranked among South Africa's top four Super Rugby teams.
Stransky also claimed that the Bloemfontein-based franchise is not sustainable financially.
'The Cheetahs are one of very few South African rugby entities to show a healthy profit in the 2017 financial year and are financially sustainable,' the franchise responded. 'As an entity the Free State Cheetahs (Pty) Ltd embarked on a five-year financial plan and is realising better than expected results. Furthermore, [the Cheetahs are] the only rugby entity in South Africa to have a sold-out stadium in the 2016 season [the Currie Cup final].'
Stransky said the Cheetahs and Kings 'have very low supporter bases during Super Rugby,' to which the Cheetahs responded: '2016 broadcasters viewership numbers show that the Cheetahs have larger viewership numbers than any of the Australian and New Zealand franchises. The Cheetahs' combined total unique audience for Super Rugby and Currie Cup measures comfortably within the top four positions in South African rugby.'
According to Stransky, the Cheetahs are 'in the middle of the country, they turn out great young talents but they are not places that can economically sustain a team'.
To which the Cheetahs replied: 'The middle of the country, consisting of the Free State, Northern Cape and Eastern Cape, where the Cheetahs and Kings support bases are based, boasts 26% of the active rugby fans in South Africa. Further to that the Mangaung Metro Municipality is growing at a rapid pace with regards to transport and economic development, contributing to the overall infrastructure development in South Africa.'
Stransky said South Africa needed 'four Super Rugby teams that are strong, willing and highly competitive, so we can breed a winning culture and that can go right the way up, hopefully, to Springbok level'.
The Cheetahs pointed out that they produce top players and coaches.
'The Cheetahs, the 2016 Currie Cup champions, are the conveyer belt for great young talent, coaches and administrators – Franco Smith, Niel Powell, Brendan Venter, Rassie Erasmus, Jacques Nienaber, Ian Swartz – and boast 10 players included in the 2017 Springbok training squad of which seven players are of colour, further highlighting their contribution towards the transformation of South African rugby.
'By axing the Cheetahs from Super Rugby, this conveyer belt will come to a grinding halt, negatively impacting South African rugby.'
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images