• Cheetahs refocus as competition looms

    The Cheetahs and SA Rugby remain engaged in ‘constructive’ discussions on the future of the franchise, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

    SA Rugby held a special general meeting at the end of September 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. The Cheetahs were ousted, but were said to be in line for possible participation in a newly-proposed ‘Super Series’ tournament still to be confirmed as an alternative.

    READ: Cheetahs out of PRO Rugby

    In response, the Cheetahs confirmed in a statement that they were ‘reviewing their options’, with outgoing managing director Harold Verster stating: ‘The options are to abide by the outcome of  Saru meeting or to go the legal route.’

    Cheetahs captain Ruan Pienaar has been particularly outspoken on the matter, revealing how people have been left ‘shattered’ by the decision, while highlighting that no one at SA Rugby has fronted up to explain the decision and its merits, or lack thereof.

    In a Cheetahs statement issued to SARugbymag.co.za on Thursday, though, it appears unlikely that the disappointment around the decision will lead to legal action, which Verster has previously said would be an unenviable option to pursue.

    ‘The talks are ongoing and are taking place in constructive spirit,’ the Cheetahs statement read. ‘The objective is to find solutions that will ensure the Cheetahs’ future role in – and contribution to – South African rugby.’

    This Saturday, the Cheetahs will head back into action when they face the Pumas in the first round of Super Rugby Unlocked, and coach Hawies Fourie says the focus now is just on producing the goods on the field, and hopefully defending their Currie Cup title.

    READ: Bok veterans start for Cheetahs

    ‘It won’t work for us if we just focus on negative things and are thinking that we have to go out and prove something. We want to focus on being back in action, and we’re grateful to have a competition to play in. The Currie Cup is something we view as part of our DNA.

    ‘You can get distracted quite easily without rugby, but now we’re preparing for the Pumas, and that’s where our focus lies. We don’t want to prove anyone wrong, we just want to play well as a team and look after each other.’

    It was a sentiment echoed by Pienaar, who said the time had come to focus on on-field matters and what they could control.

    ‘In these circumstances it would be easy to feel sorry for yourself and dwell on it, but now is the time to move on. I’ve been trying to get that message across; these are tough times, and it’s something that’s on your mind, and when you sit still you speak about it.

    ‘We haven’t played for a long time, but now we’re back and you realise how you miss it, the team environment, and banter. It’s about getting over the decision and focusing on our performance, it’s an opportunity to get back to doing what we love.’

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    Craig Lewis