Cheetahs pull out of Lions Currie Cup clash

The Currie Cup match between the Lions and Cheetahs has been cancelled at a late notice after the Free State side decided it was unsafe to travel to Johannesburg.

Lions CEO Rudolf Straeuli confirmed on Thursday that they were informed that the Cheetahs would not be travelling to play the game 30 minutes before their team announcement press conference.

This is despite assurances and a willingness from the Lions to compromise and hold the game in Bloemfontein instead.

The Lions’ Ellis Park stadium is situated in Doornfontein near the Johannesburg CBD and is in close proximity to Bertrams, Jeppestown and Hillbrow, which have been hotspots for ongoing unrest and looting in the province.

“We heard at a very late stage that the game is being cancelled and we apologise for the inconvenience,” said Straeuli.

“The Cheetahs informed us that they had instituted a temporary non-travelling policy for the team because they feel it’s unsafe.

“It’s a decision that wasn’t taken lightly because we really want to fulfil our obligations.”

However, the Lions confirmed that they have both players and staff have been able to thus far complete a full week of work, with the players able to safely train at Ellis Park.

The Lions have an ongoing partnership with Fidelity Services Group,and are reported to have a close relationship with Jeppe Police Station, which is only 800m away.

“We were quite comfortable with our working environment for the week,” Straeuli added.

“We’re very fortunate in terms of the intelligence at our disposal. We’re close to Jeppe SAPS and Fidelity has a footprint all over South Africa.

“Naturally, both parties gave us great information on which areas are no-go, but it was made clear to us that it’s quite safe to travel to Ellis Park.

“There are a lot of challenges facing the rugby industry.”

The Cheetahs’ decision means that there will be no Currie Cup action this weekend, as the Pumas’ match against the Sharks in Durban was cancelled due to ongoing unrest in KwaZulu-Natal, while the match between the Bulls and Griquas was called off to allow the Pretoria side to face South Africa A in Cape Town on Saturday.

SA Rugby still needs to decide whether to award the Lions all four log points, even though Ivan van Rooyen’s team was willing to scrap the points guarantee and travel to Bloemfontein.

Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

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Dylan Jack