VIDEO: Cheetahs' surprise Euro move
REACTION: The Cheetahs may have fallen well short in the race for the Currie Cup play-offs, but there is a proverbial pot of gold waiting at the end of the rainbow.
Even before their 36-39 loss to the Bulls in Pretoria at the weekend, the Cheetahs were out of the running for the semifinals.
However, they already have the “promise” of returning to Europe – having been kicked out of European-based Pro14 (now the United Rugby Championship) by SA Rugby in 2020.
Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie confirmed rumours that they are going to get an entry into the European Challenge Cup – the second-tier club competition in the Northern Hemisphere.
“That still needs to be confirmed,” Fourie said of their potential return to Europe.
The Challenge Cup is scheduled to get underway in December.
The ‘provisional’ fixtures have the Cheetahs down to play French giants Toulon and the Newport-based Welsh franchise the Dragons on December 11 and 18.
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“We are looking at organising some [warm-up] games for November,” Fourie told @rugby365com.
Following the Round 14 Currie Cup loss to the Bulls at the weekend, the Cheetahs will go into a three-week break, then start a conditioning block – followed by a proper pre-season.
“We are looking at playing some games in November to prepare for the Challenge Cup – if, indeed, we play in that competition.”
The Cheetahs have two options for their warm-up games.
“We could invite two teams from Eastern Europe,” the coach told this website.
“If they can come we’ll invite another South African team, to make it a four-team event.
“We can play double-headers and every team will get three games.”
Fourie confirmed that, with the four South African franchises having a break from their URC commitments in Europe in November, they could look to play friendlies against them if the Eastern European teams can’t visit Bloemfontein.
“I am pretty sure most of them will want to play at least one friendly and use some of the guys who didn’t get much game time [in Europe], or injured guys returning.”
The Cheetahs played Super Rugby between 2006 and 2017, before joining the Pro14 competition prior to the 2017–18 season.
However, when SA Rugby moved from SANZAAR and Super Rugby to Europe in 2020, the Cheetahs and now-defunct Southern Kings lost their places in Europe.
That, it appears, is about to change again.