Fri 3 Jun 2022 | 12:19

Cheetahs finally get their Euro 'justice'

Cheetahs finally get their Euro 'justice'
Fri 3 Jun 2022 | 12:19
Cheetahs finally get their Euro 'justice'
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‘It’s been a long time coming’

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Those were the words uttered by coach Hawies Fourie in the wake of news that Cheetahs will return to the international arena.

The EPCR revealed this week that five South African franchises will features in the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup for the 2022/23 season and beyond.

The Stormers, the Bulls, and Sharks will compete in next season’s Champions Cup, while the Lions and the Cheetahs will participate in the Challenge Cup.

The Cheetahs were rumoured to feature in the Challenge Cup last season.

However, those talks stalled.

“It is great news for us. It’s been a long time coming,” the Cheetahs’ coach, Fourie, said during a team announcement ahead of the Currie Cup game against Pumas.

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“We look forward to playing in the competition.

“Last year, we were slated to play in the Challenge Cup, but those plans were cancelled – so there was a bit of disappointment.

“However, everyone is excited about playing some of the top teams in Europe [now that it is confirmed].”

Break down the door

It has certainly been a long and difficult journey for the Bloemfontein franchise after they were first axed from Super Rugby and then kicked out of the European-based Pro14 (now the United Rugby Championship) by SA Rugby.

Despite failing in their quest to initially get an invite to an European competition, the Cheetahs continued to impress in local tournaments.

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They have been in great form in this season’s Currie Cup competition.

The Cheetahs are trailing the defending-champion and table-topping Bulls by six points.

However, Fourie’s team has a game in hand.

They host the Pumas on Friday and are firm favourites to win the title.

Fourie believes Cheetahs’ Currie Cup is one of the reasons why EPCR organisers could not deny them entry to Europe.

“I believe our form to date has been crucial because it’s forced the powers that be to look at our credentials,” Fourie said.

“If we just won four or five matches in this Currie Cup campaign, everyone would’ve ranked us with some of our competitors locally. There would be no reason to invest in us [by finding an international competition to compete in].

“We continued to knock on the door for two, three years without any other tournament to compete in, losing a lot of players in the process but gaining many, too.

“We continued to perform at a competitive level. It’s been a long process to convince everyone that we’re ready for this challenge.”

He added: “The rest of the Currie Cup, personally, is now about being as best prepared as possible to bring the trophy back to Bloemfontein.

“To do that, we need to play very well against the Pumas, then the Bulls and then the semi-final, too. If we don’t win those matches, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot and undo all the good work we’ve done.

“We’re not worried about Europe for now, there’s a lot of water that needs to flow under the bridge.

“It’s Currie Cup or nothing for us currently.”

@leezil07

@rugby365com 

 

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