Posted on Sunday, 25 Apr 2021
“The Cheetahs were surprised by the statement that the Rainbow Cup would take place in South Africa and especially the possible implications for South African rugby,” says Ryno Opperman, chairman of the Toyota Free State Cheetahs.
“The Cheetahs were not aware beforehand of the details of the competition, especially not that a double round match roster was planned for the four participating teams. This could adversely affect the rugby calendar and preparation for SA’s star tournament, the Currie Cup, as well as for the British and Irish Lions tour. The announcement also means that recent discussions between SARU and the unions about a “Franchise Cup” tournament that would have involved eight teams, cannot progress at this stage.
“The Cheetahs are not, however, resting on our laurels, but are already planning matches in South Africa and abroad. These plans are made in conjunction with SA Rugby, its coaching team and other role players. After the Cheetahs were excluded from Super Rugby and PRO 16, our approach has been to craft our own destiny in a constructive way.
“The South African rugby calendar for 2021 had been planned early on for wide match experience amongst eight teams, conditioning, preparation and utilising the best available talent for our own pre-eminent Currie Cup and to build the best possible Springbok team to play the British and Irish Lions. The Cheetahs remain keen and ready for games against any South African or international team.
“The planned double round of the Rainbow Cup almost crowds the already packed rugby calendar and provide only the four so-called “elite teams” (the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers) with match exposure and broadcast revenue. We are also concerned that these “tough” matches between the four with Currie Cup following immediately thereafter could leave Springbok players tired and bruised with the added risk of injuries.
“In our view, this leaves Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber with less than ideal circumstances to select the strongest Springbok team against the British and Irish Lions. Given all these considerations, the Cheetahs are in discussions with SARU and key role players – in a constructive spirit and in the interests of South African rugby,” says Opperman.