Rudolph Jacobs
Rugby Journalist
2 minute read
26 Nov 2020
6:59 am

Currie Cup champs Cheetahs won’t give up ProRugby fight, as talks continue

Rudolph Jacobs

"We are looking forward to the Currie Cup, in order to prove ourselves once again as a force to be reckoned with."

Cheetahs Rugby MD Harold Verster and team head coach Hawies Fourie are desperate to stay involved in ProRugby next year. Picture: Getty Images

The Cheetahs will continue to fight for their rights as one of the top rugby unions in South Africa, and won’t easily surrender, the franchise’s chief executive Harold Verster insisted on Wednesday.

The Cheetahs’ future has been wrapped in uncertainty since SA Rugby decided recently that they and the Kings would be replaced by the four SA Super Rugby sides in a future, expanded Pro16 competition.

While SA Rugby said participation in ProRugby still needed to be confirmed, Verster was involved in another round of high-profile discussions with the various interested groups in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

It has been suggested that the Cheetahs could be included in another international competition, potentially even in Russia or the United States, but Verster said negotiations were still at a “delicate stage”.

“In conjunction with our main sponsor (Toyota) the Free State Cheetahs are still engaged in high-level talks with SA Rugby, SuperSport, sponsors, other franchises and stakeholders,” said Verster.

“This is to ensure that the Cheetahs remain a valuable, viable and competitive franchise in South African rugby and world rugby in general.”

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Because the Cheetahs were contracted to ProRugby until 2023, talks of legal action had surfaced, while fears had also been expressed that the Cheetahs might face a mass exodus of players if they didn’t participate in a top international competition next season.

“While the Cheetahs reaffirm their entrenched rights in Pro14 and an expanded Pro16, we have actively pursued other opportunities,” said Verster.

“This is after the SA Rugby general council’s decision to include only the Bulls, Stormers, Lions and Sharks in Pro16.”

As rugby reorganised and reinvented itself after the Covid-19 impact, however, new permutations and opportunities had arisen.

“The board continues to explore possibilities in the interests of the Cheetahs, players, staff, supporters, sponsors and other stakeholders,” said Verster.

With the Currie Cup kicking off this weekend, the Cheetahs were looking to defend the title they won last year, and even a top-four finish might create a lot of heat on the board members at SA Rugby.

“We are looking forward to the Currie Cup competition as the defending champions, in order to prove ourselves once again as a force to be reckoned with,” said Verster.

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