Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie says the Currie Cup desperately needs SA’s best players to raise the standard of rugby’s oldest competition, reports DEVIN HERMANUS.
The Bloemfontein outfit are unbeaten after seven matches and within one point of the table-topping Vodacom Bulls, but for the most part they haven’t faced stiff opposition this season.
Lengthy breaks between matches haven’t helped the Free Staters, and they’ve had to try and stay sharp with friendlies against Shimlas and the SA U20s.
So, the inclusion of several standout performers for the Bulls, Sharks and Lions over the two-week Vodacom United Rugby Championship break has been music to Fourie’s ears.
“The Currie Cup is a bit watered down, if I can be honest, especially when you play so few and far [between matches]. The Cheetahs have just played one match in seven weeks, which makes things difficult,” he told media before Friday’s clash against the Lions in Joburg.
“From here on, it’s a bit more of a normal season, playing every weekend; there’s just one when we don’t play, which we’ll squeeze in a match against the SA U20s.
“The Bulls still have a very strong Currie Cup team they can put on the field, which is good for the competition, and the Lions will do the same this week. The Sharks will also give those players who’ve been on the bench or played less than 20-30 minutes in the URC a chance in the Currie Cup.
“It will lift the standard of the competition, and also the interest, and it’s a good thing because the competition needs it.”
The Cheetahs’ hopes of joining a possible ‘B Division’ of the URC were dashed last month, so are looking to rope in Super Rugby giants Crusaders and Toyota Verblitz from Japan for the 2022 Toyota Challenge.
Fourie added: “We really want to play internationally, that’s a fact. What we will do until then is the Toyota Challenge again, to give our players the chance against good opponents.
“Preparations are underway and we’ll have more details in the coming weeks, but we’re trying to get stronger opposition than we had previously, for our larger contracted group to all feature against strong teams.
“We’re looking at playing three to four matches, and that’s what we can do as it’s all we can control.”