CONFIRMED: No Euro dream for Cheetahs
NEWS: The Cheetahs’ aspiration of returning to Europe has come to an abrupt end.
Following their exclusion from the European-based Pro14 (now the United Rugby Championship) by SA Rugby in 2020, Cheetahs were hopeful that they can get entry into the European Challange Cup.
In August Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie told rugby365 that the side’s spot in the Challange Cup is pending.
The ‘provisional’ fixtures had the Cheetahs down to play French giants Toulon and the Newport-based Welsh franchise the Dragons on December 11 and 18.
However, with EPCR confirming the fixtures on Thursday, the South African side are clearly absent despite the modification to the competition.
The Challenge Cup is scheduled to get underway on December 11.
A modified Challenge Cup format will see 15 clubs competing in three pools over five pool stage rounds with Saracens marking their return to European competition with a Round 1 match in Pool C against Edinburgh Rugby at the StoneX Stadium on Saturday, December 11.
The 2012 winners, Biarritz Olympique, are also back in Europe after an absence of seven years and their opening Pool A tie on Saturday, December 11 sees them up against Zebre Rugby Club at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi while three-time finalists, RC Toulon, start out in Round 2 at Stade Félix Mayol also against Zebre on Friday, December 17.
Clubs will only play against opponents from their own pool, and one club in each pool will have a bye during each round. The exact dates and kick-off times for the Round 5 fixtures on April 8/9/10 , 2022 will be announced later in the season.
The three highest-ranked clubs from each pool, and the highest-ranked fourth-placed club, as well as six Champions Cup clubs, will qualify for the Round of 16 which will be played on the weekend of April 15/16/17, 2022, followed by quarter-finals and semi-finals, with the final at the Stade Vélodrome, Marseille on May 27, 2022.
— rugby365.com (@rugby365com) October 7, 2021
Meanwhile, Stade Toulousain, who completed a magnificent double of Champions Cup and TOP 14 triumphs last season, will kick off the defence of their elite European title on Saturday, December 11 with a Round 1 clash in Pool B against Cardiff Rugby at Cardiff Arms Park.
Four-time tournament winners and last season’s PRO14 champions, Leinster Rugby, will open their campaign with a Round 1 tie in Pool A against Bath Rugby at the Aviva Stadium also on Saturday, December 11, while Harlequins, who won the 2021 Premiership in such spectacular style, will travel to play Castres Olympique on Sunday, December 12 in Pool B.
Highlights of the back-to-back clashes in Rounds 2 and 3 feature the Pool A matches between Sale Sharks and ASM Clermont Auvergne on Saturday, December 18 and Sunday, January 16, 2022, as well as the meetings of Stade Francais Paris and Bristol Bears in Pool B on Sunday, December 19 and Saturday, January 15, 2022.
Last season’s defeated finalists, Stade Rochelais, will attempt to go one better when they launch their European campaign against Glasgow Warriors in Pool A at Stade Marcel-Deflandre on Sunday, December 12, and the tournament will get underway on Friday, December 10 when Northampton Saints host Racing 92 at the cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens.
The Champions Cup will be competed for by 24 clubs, including nine previous winners with as many as 38 European titles between them, in two pools of 12 over four pool stage rounds.
The eight highest-ranked clubs from each pool will qualify for the knockout stage which will consist of a Round of 16 on a home and away basis, quarter-finals and semi-finals, with the final in Marseille on May 28, 2022.
The clubs ranked nine to 11 in each of the pools will qualify for the Round of 16 of the EPCR Challenge Cup.