The future of the Cheetahs and Eastern Province rugby is expected to be on the agenda when SA Rugby holds its general council meeting on Tuesday.
All indications suggest that there will be robust discussions around how SA Rugby should move forward, with the Cheetahs determined to fight to retain their status as a competitor in an expanded PRO14 competition.
Meanwhile, with the Kings franchise having disintegrated into liquidation, it’s now about finding a foothold for EP Rugby, with a team possibly hoping to still feature in the Currie Cup later this year.
The Cheetahs have mounted a support campaign in the buildup to the general council meeting, with a motor-and-motorcycle parade taking place in Bloemfontein on Monday.
Cheetahs supporters proudly displayed the Currie Cup as the current champions with former Springbok Joggie Jansen and other big names joining in. Many internationally-known rugby icons such as Morne du Plessis, Frik du Preez, Wynand Claassen and Theuns Stofberg have voiced their support to keep the Cheetahs in international rugby.
The Cheetahs have also made it known that they have a solid legal case to play in PRO14 until at least the 2022-23 season, and are said to have briefed top senior advocate Wim Trengove.
‘Despite claiming our rights, we believe in constructive engagement to turn rugby problems into opportunities and solutions,’ says Harold Verster, outgoing managing director of the Free State Cheetahs.
‘We will therefore take part in discussions about the domestic Vodacom and Currie Cup competitions and the international PRO Rugby or other competitions that may arise. We simply want to be acknowledged as a proud, viable, match-winning and talent-producing franchise on equal terms with the other four. Even by Saru’s own criteria, the Cheetahs end up in the top four.’
The executive cannot make a unilateral decision on the participation of the Cheetahs, Kings, Bulls, Sharks, Stormers and Lions, with the general council needing to approve who participates in the Currie Cup, international competition and the budget.