Cheetahs & Kings not on Euro trash heap ... just yet
INTERVIEW: The Cheetahs and Southern Kings may be ‘shut out’ for now, but they are certainly not on Pro14’s trash heap.
Panic set in this week when the Europe-based competition announced its restart date, but the Cheetahs and Kings were excluded.
However, that is because neither team has been allowed to return to contact training. Non-contact training only started in South Africa this week.
The delayed return follows on increased speculation that the Cheetahs and Kings could be ‘sacrificed’ to make room for South Africa’s four big franchises in an expanded European competition.
SA Rugby Chief Executive Officer Jurie Roux admitted this week they are “a long way down the road’ in creating alternative options for the Lions, Bulls, Sharks and Stormers in 2021 and beyond.
“I wouldn’t be doing my job not to look at Plan B or Plan C,” Roux told a virtual media briefing this week.
“I’ve been doing that for a long time and there are a few options on the table.”
He declined to elaborate on specifics of the alternatives, but said they have “different options that will probably suit us better”.
He said they are building towards the direction they probably need to head towards over the next few years.
“We are making plans, but there’s nothing to announce right now, and we have to weigh up options in the SANZAAR environment,” Roux added.
Pressed on the future of the Cheetahs and Kings, the SA Rugby CEO said: “We are obviously looking at our structures.”
“We are making decisions on where we are going to play internationally – be that SANZAAR or an expanded European competition,” he said, when asked about the future of the various franchises.
“Only once we have negotiated on how that competition[s] will work, only then the decisions will follow when we will decide who participates where and what format.”
He explained that those decisions are not for the SA Rugby executive committee to make, but rather the general council of the South African Rugby Union.
He said all the domestic unions will participate in the decision-making process.
“[Through the general council] the Cheetahs will have a very big say who plays internationally,” Roux said, adding: “So will the Kings, so will the other 12 unions that are part of the general council.”
Some reports suggested the decision on which teams feature in Europe could rest on whether the Lions, Sharks, Bulls and Stormers could gain access to Europe’s Champions Cup and Challenge Cup competitions.
Such a move would require the consent of the English and French clubs.