Are the Cheetahs being neglected by the national governing body?
This is an issue that has been raised quite often lately.
While the City of Roses hosted the Boks and England in 2018, it has been a while since Bloemfontein was allocated a major Test match, and there is a feeling that the city has disappeared from the radar since the Cheetahs’ exit from Super Rugby and their alliance with Pro14.
Cheetahs supporters were very unhappy last year that the Springboks’ World Cup trophy tour didn’t include the Free State, while the British and Irish Lions tour in 2021 also doesn’t include a game in the central region.
There is also a feeling that Cheetahs players are being unfairly overlooked, with not a single player included in the World Cup squad, despite the side winning the Currie Cup twice since 2016.
The Cheetahs have been known for years as one of the best breeding grounds in SA rugby, but top players like Andre Joubert, Pieter Muller, Henry Honiball, Ruan Pienaar, Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis, Frans Steyn and Makazole Mapimpi – to name but a few – first had to go to the Sharks before they became international stars.
The latest two Cheetahs players to have taken the Durban route were prop Ox Nche and loose forward Henco Venter.
The Cheetahs pointed out this week that the appointment of Daan Human, another ex-Cheetahs player, as the new Springbok scrum coach proved how much value the province was adding.
“Free State Rugby is proud of the fact that almost all the top coaches in South Africa hail from the Free State, and it is therefore
clear that Free State is not only a developer of talented players but also coaches, referees and administrators,” the provincial body said in a statement.
They pointed out that, besides Human, Rugby World Cup-winning coach Rassie Erasmus, his assistant Jacques Nienaber and
Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell are all from the province.
Former Cheetahs coach Franco Smith is head coach of Italy and Brendan Venter is a Bok backline consultant.
Pote Human (Bulls) and his assistant Pine Pienaar are also products of Free State Rugby.
Surely the union deserves more prominence in South African rugby’s ecosystem?
Rudolph Jacobs is The Citizen’s chief rugby writer.
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