Cheetahs captain Ruan Pienaar has defended his team’s performances in the Pro14 after the side was criticised by former Ireland hooker Keith Wood.
Wood, who earned over 50 Test caps for Ireland while also playing for Munster and Harlequins, appeared on the Off the Ball podcast where he question the point of the Pro12 expanding to the Pro14 to include the Cheetahs and the Kings.
The former Ireland captain said the South African franchises were a ‘waste of time’ before adding that he would like to see more games between British and Irish clubs.
Pienaar – who represented Ulster in Pro rugby before moving back to the Cheetahs – told Netwerk24 that he thinks the Bloemfontein franchise brings something different to the competition.
‘I think it is interesting, but everybody is entitled to their opinion,’ Pienaar said. ‘I think he might mean that it is better in terms of travel to keep it exclusively in the north.
‘If you speak to many of the Irish players, you realise that they actually enjoy the competition and enjoy coming down here to play in South Africa and it is the same for us.
‘It is actually worse for us. We travel more, while they are only in South Africa for two weeks. Logically speaking, it’s not as bad for them. It is a massive challenge for us. I think we have shown in the last couple of weeks that we are worthy opponents. It is never just an easy game against us and I think we bring something new, something different to the competition.
‘Those that watch the Pro14, and those that I have spoken with, like the way that we are trying to play. Obviously, I cannot speak for the Kings, because I don’t know how they see things. I think it is a great competition and hopefully it continues in this way.’
The two South African franchises were included in Celtic Rugby’s premier tournament as the Pro12 expanded to the Pro14 in 2017 after the Cheetahs and Kings were left out of Vodacom Super Rugby.
In their first season of the Pro14 – which began shortly after the end of the 2017 Super Rugby season – the Cheetahs reached the playoffs where they lost to eventual finalists the Scarlets in Wales. The Bloemfontein-based team were also on track to reach the quarter-finals before the current 2019-20 season was brought to a halt by the Covid-19 pandemic.
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