Cheetahs to fight for Super Rugby spot

Cheetahs managing director Harold Verster says the Free State franchise will ‘not go down without a fight’ in Super Rugby, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

On Sunday, Sanzaar confirmed what had become an increasingly open secret as it was announced that three teams would be cut from Super Rugby, including two from South Africa and one from Australia.

The widely held perception is that the Cheetahs and Kings are the two South African sides set to be axed from the competition.

SA Rugby stated on Sunday that it will now begin internal consultations to identify its four entrants to the 2018 competition, with the newly-established franchise rugby committee (made up of representatives of all six teams) set to meet on Tuesday to finalise the criteria for selection.

Their recommendation will then go to the executive council, and once that is agreed upon, it will need to be approved by the general council of SA Rugby.

It’s set to be a lengthy process, with SA Rugby stating that it hoped it would be able to confirm the 2018 Super Rugby participants by the end of June.

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When one looks at the history of the franchises, and the performance records of the respective teams, it does seem unfathomable that any of the Lions, Stormers, Bulls or Sharks could be cut from the competition.

The Kings’ fate appears to be sealed, but last week, COO Charl Crous insisted that there were are a number of reasons why the Eastern Cape franchise still warrants a place in Super Rugby.

Similarly, Vorster told on Monday that he believed the Cheetahs could present a convincing case to motivate for Super Rugby inclusion next year.

‘I’m still positive that we can be one of the four teams from South Africa to remain in the competition. We have plenty of reasons to motivate for the Cheetahs to retain their place, but we’re not going to go and tell the world all of those reasons right now.

‘Needless to say, we have a few cards up our sleeve, and we’re not going to go down without a fight. There is a process to be followed now. The criteria for selection will be finalised tomorrow [on Tuesday], and we will present our case and then wait for the result. We understand the broad outline of what is required, and I believe we have a better than good chance of retaining our place in Super Rugby.’

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Photo: Frikkie Kapp/Gallo Images

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Craig Lewis