The Cheetahs have called on SA Rugby to adopt a playoff structure to determine the country’s entrants in an expanded PRO16 event in Europe.
SA Rugby recently pulled its four Super Rugby franchises – the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers – out of the southern hemisphere event in favour of playing in an expanded PRO Rugby event. This scenario would leave the Cheetahs and Southern Kings, who have played in the PRO14 since 2017, out in the cold.
Over the weekend, the Cheetahs’ main sponsor, Toyota, hit out at SA Rugby for booting the Bloemfontein-based franchise out of PRO Rugby.
The sponsor called on SA Rugby to embrace the principle of promotion-relegation to ensure the best four South African teams play in an expanded PRO16 event. On Wednesday, the Cheetahs released a statement in which they thanked the sponsor for their continued support and backed the idea that playoffs should be used to determine South Africa’s participants in PRO Rugby.
“The Free State Cheetahs management are extremely thankful and appreciative of Toyota South Africa’s strong statement over the weekend that they are eager to continue their nine-year long sponsorship of the Free State Cheetahs.
“We also support them in their belief that the South African Rugby Union (SA Rugby), should adopt the principle of playoffs to ensure that the best four SA teams participate in the PRO16 international competition,” the Cheetahs said in the statement.
The Cheetahs added that the two domestic competitions – Super Rugby Unlocked and Currie Cup – should be used to determine which four teams advance. “If the Cheetahs don’t end up amongst the top four teams, so be it. At least fairness would prevail and ensure the continued development of the five major SA franchises. It would also deliver the best possible talent for supporters and Springbok selection.”