The Lions and Cheetahs received a significant boost on Thursday when it was confirmed that they would both be involved in the European Rugby Challenge Cup next season.
European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) hosts two knockout competitions every year featuring teams from France, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Italy, with South Africa now being included.
It was an open secret that the Stormers, Bulls and Sharks would be included in EPCR’s flagship competition, the European Rugby Champions Cup, which was won by La Rochelle over the past weekend.
But there were question marks over whether the Lions would be included in the EPCR’s second division competition, the Challenge Cup which was won by Lyon over the past weekend, but that has now been confirmed with the added bonus that the Cheetahs will also be involved.
The Cheetahs are the major surprise inclusion in the competition, as the teams that play in it are from the various top leagues, being the United Rugby Championship, English Premiership and French Top 14.
However, an allowance has been made for them to be included which will be a huge relief to the union that has been desperately trying to find an elite international club competition to be a part of.
“We are very grateful to SA Rugby and all the other stakeholders for getting us the opportunity to play in an international competition again. We know it took a lot of hard work and we are looking forward to playing in the EPCR Challenge Cup next season,” said Cheetahs CEO Ross van Reenen.
“I especially want to express my sincere thanks and gratitude for the incredible amount of hard work that Mr Jurie Roux, CEO of SARU and Mr Mark Alexander, President of SARU, have put in behind the scenes to make this dream of competing in the EPCR Challenge Cup become a reality for the Free State Cheetahs.”