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Cheetahs to call Amsterdam 'home' on European stage

NEWS: European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) unveiled the two invited teams for the 2023/2024 Challenge Cup season.

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Georgia’s Black Lion and the Cheetahs from South Africa have accepted the invitations to compete in the tournament.

Black Lion will make history by becoming the first Georgian club to play in one of EPCR’s main professional tournaments while the Bloemfontein-based Cheetahs, who triumphed in the Currie Cup Final last weekend, will take their place again after reaching the knockout stage of last season’s Challenge Cup before losing to eventual winners RC Toulon.

The Cheetahs will face Oyonnax, Section Paloise, Sharks and Zebre Parma in Pool One with Amsterdam in the Netherlands as their agreed ‘home’ base when pitted against European opponents.

Their pool stage match against the Sharks will be played in either Bloemfontein or Durban depending on the outcome of the current fixture scheduling process.

Black Lion go into Pool Three where they will take on two former tournament winners in Gloucester and ASM Clermont Auvergne, as well as Castres Olympique and Scarlets with their two home matches staged in Tbilisi.

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EPCR Chairman, Dominic McKay, said: “The inclusion of Black Lion and the return of the Cheetahs reflect a continuing commitment to widen the scope of our tournaments and to showcase new, exciting talent for fans worldwide.

The Cheetahs have already enhanced the EPCR Challenge Cup with their performance last season, and we are confident that the Georgians’ passion and physicality will further raise the intensity of the tournament.”

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Georgian Rugby Union President, Ioseb Tkemaladze, added: “This is a hugely important moment for Georgian rugby and for the country. We’ve all been working hard for this – on the pitch and behind the scenes – for many years. We’re grateful to EPCR for taking a lead and showing the vision that is needed to further the global development and growth of the game. My personal gratitude to Dominic McKay and his amazing team for their hard work and support.”

Meanwhile, Cheetahs Chief Executive, Ross van Reenen, said: “We are pleased to have been invited to compete again in the EPCR Challenge Cup and after qualifying for the knockout stage last season, we believe we have the capacity to perform to a higher level in 2023/24. We are looking forward to making a big impression in Pool One of the tournament.”

The two clubs were offered invitations to participate following a detailed and competitive tender process during which EPCR received interest from across Europe and beyond, including an impressive application from Tel Aviv Heat, Israel’s first professional club, who have been performing strongly in the Rugby Europe Super Cup.

Full details of the fixture schedules for the 2023/24 EPCR Challenge Cup and Champions Cup will be announced as soon as practicable, with the tournaments set to kick off with the first round of pool stage matches on the weekend of December 8/9/10.

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