Verster sheds light on Cheetahs’ path back to Europe
REACTION: The Cheetahs are positive their latest rugby product will open the door – or window – back to Europe.
The Bloemfontein franchise announced on Friday that they will face Stormers and the Sharks and two European sides in a series of matches in November.
The two European rugby clubs come in the shape of Spain’s Diables Barcelona and Romania’s CSM Stiinta Baia Mare.
This will be the first time the teams will travel to South Africa.
Thus far the Cheetahs have formulated various plans to re-enter Europe since being axed from the Pro14 (now the expanded United Rugby Championship) by SA Rugby.
At the start of this month, their last aspiration of entering the European Challenge Cup was halted when EPCR confirmed the fixtures – leaving Cheetahs again at the wayside.
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Speaking to reporters on Friday, Free State Cheetahs Managing Director Harold Verster is hopeful that their latest endeavours will finally reap the rewards.
“The planning process to get the Cheetahs back into the international arena has been going on for quite some time,” Vester admitted.
“After Pro Rugby’s decision and the URC we have gone a long way to secure international involvement, however, it will take some time to finalize all these discussions and issues.”
Verster said negotiations between the Cheetahs, SA Rugby and other international entities are in advance stages.
And supporters can expect an announcement early next year.
“I think the announcement regarding the international competition will hopefully be made early next year because there are a number of issues that needs to be dealt with.
“In the meantime, it will be the [Bloemfontein] Challenge, Currie Cup in January and then hopefully the announcement of our international involvement.”
He added: “We definitely want to bring ourselves back into the international fold and it has been done at a very high level along with SA Rugby.
“The other four franchises (Lions, Sharks, Bulls and Stormers) play in the URC and are well set, so we are actually the ones who are looking for a process to get back into the international frame and we are there I think.
“We already playing against European teams and we have gone a long way to secure international opposition in the future.
“We are positive it will happen and the announcement will come later.”
When asked about the longevity of the upcoming Bloemfontein Challenge, Verster said: “The series is a once-off challenge and should it be successful we hope to continue into new seasons and invite other teams.
“But at this stage, it is a part of the process to get the Cheetahs back into international competitions and to keep the franchise’s international status.”