Cheetahs: Playoffs should determine PRO16 participants

The Cheetahs have advocated for the final standings in the current local competition to serve as the defining factor in determining which four teams feature in the PRO16.

‘The Free State Cheetahs management are extremely thankful and appreciative of Toyota South Africa’s strong statement over the weekend that they are eager to continue their nine-year long sponsorship of the Free State Cheetahs,’ a statement read on Wednesday.

‘We also support them in their belief that the South African Rugby Union (SARU), should adopt the principle of playoffs to ensure that the best four SA teams participate in the PRO16 international competition.

‘Free State Cheetahs management can see no reason why the current Super Unlocked and Currie Cup competitions cannot be adopted to determine the teams to represent South Africa in next year’s PRO16.

‘If the Cheetahs don’t end up among the top four teams, so be it. At least fairness would prevail and ensure the continued development of the five major SA franchises. It would also deliver the best possible talent for supporters and Springbok selection.

‘We therefore salute Toyota’s solid support for the Cheetahs. They have made an invaluable contribution to rugby in the Free State and in South Africa, are a strong international brand and a progressive, solid, dependable partner.

‘Covid-19 has in the meantime disrupted the Super Unlocked series. The Lions’ games against the Cheetahs and Pumas were cancelled, as well as the game this weekend between the Sharks and Stormers. There is also a possibility that the Vodacom Bulls’ game, currently scheduled for Saturday, might be cancelled.

‘Should that be the case, the Bulls will end up as the first winners of the Super Unlocked trophy. We believe they are deserved winners, having lost only against the Cheetahs.

‘After last weekend’s unfortunate loss against the Stormers, the Cheetahs are currently fourth on the log and will stay there if we beat Griquas on Saturday. The cancellation of the match between the Stormers and Sharks is unfortunate, as it has ruled out the Cheetahs’ chance of moving up to third place on the log.

‘The cancellation means that the Sharks and Stormers will now both get two points, moving them to 19 points on the log, which is beyond the Cheetahs’ reach.

‘A win against Griquas, even without a bonus point, will ensure that we end up among the top four teams. This is by no means going to be a walk in the park. Griquas have advanced by leaps and bounds since the start of the competition and were extremely unlucky not to pull off a win against the Sharks last weekend.

‘The Cheetahs have everything to play for.’

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Craig Lewis