Cheetahs to face Crusaders in Bloem?
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Super Rugby Aotearoa Champions Crusaders and Japanese club Toyota Verblitz might be heading to Bloemfontein later this year.
Following their exclusion from the European-based Pro14 (now the United Rugby Championship) by SA Rugby in 2020, the Cheetahs have relentlessly conducted plans to face some international opposition.
At first, the Free State side were hopeful that they can get entry into the European Challenge Cup.
Unfortunately for them, that dream was dashed by the EPCR last year, while the Cheetahs’ Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ross van Reenen admitted an inclusion into Europe’s competitions is not on the cards in the near future.
“I’m a realist, thus for me, it is not about we are going to do this or that,” Van Reenen told reporters during the new sponsorship media briefing
“I like planning and I’m a very structured guy. I am not making any promises that we are going to play in an international competition this year.
“I’m being honest, and I mean the possibility is not too good and hopefully I’m wrong.”
The Free State Cup
It seems like the Cheetahs have found other avenues to bring some foreign opponents to Free State.
Van Reenen hinted that there is a possibility that the franchise could host the Crusaders (New Zealand) and Toyota Verblitz (Japan) in this year’s Free State Challenge Cup.
“After numerous discussions, we are going to host another [Free State] Challenge Cup and we are keen to bring in some top-class teams like the Crusaders and maybe Toyota Verblitz.
“The big thing for us is to give our players an opportunity to play against international opponents.”
The Cheetahs will also have the Lions and Bulls as the two new South African franchises in the growing competition.
Last year the Bloemfontein side challenged the Stormers and the Sharks to compete for R250 000 worth of prize money at the Free State Stadium.
While two European rugby clubs in the form of Spain’s Diables Barcelona and Romania’s CSM Stiinta Baia Mare were also invited to feature in the series of matches.