Speaking at the 15-year reunion of the 2005 Currie Cup-winning Free State side, Naka Drotske was confident the Cheetahs would recover despite their expected exclusion from the PRO16.
‘It’s tough times again,’ said the former Free State hooker and Cheetahs coach. ‘We went through that in the past and we always come back. There’s a lot of character and tradition in this union.’
Drotske feels the conveyer belt of rugby talent in the region will soon put Free State back in the reckoning: ‘We create a lot of players coming through the Cheetahs that go on to play for South Africa, so the Cheetahs will be back.’
It’s a view shared by former flyhallf Willem de Waal who, despite growing up in Western Province, knows just how fertile this rugby breeding ground is.
Said De Waal: ‘I believe the synergy between Grey College, Kovsies, and Free Sate rugby has collectively contributed to the growth of the sport in South Africa.’
Former Springbok and Free State player Kebamba Floors stressed the importance of the Free State to rugby in South Africa.
‘We need the Free State to be competitive within South Africa because all unions contribute to the Springboks. We’ve put up big players over the years that no one knows are capable of reaching the Springbok team.’
While it looks as though the end is nigh for the Cheetahs in the PRO14, there’s a glimmer of hope in that the union is searching for another international tournament to play in.