Posted on Thursday, 19 Jan 2018
A very warm welcome to all of the rugby supporters at the stadium today here to witness the Toyota Cheetahs’ first South African Derby game on their own turf here in Bloemfontein.
The entry of the Toyota Cheetahs and the Southern Kings and the transformation into the Guinness PRO14 has felt like a whirlwind, but despite the speed of change we are thrilled to see what a positive impact the two teams have had in our Championship.
Last weekend in Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium we watched as the Kings and the Cheetahs played out the first-ever South African Derby in the Guinness PRO14 where their ambitious style of play and high-skill level was in perfect keeping with our brand of rugby.
We were delighted to see the Southern Kings record their highest attendance of the season and this comes off the back of over 200,000 fans attending games in Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales over the Festive period in Europe. Hopefully we’ll see more of the same in the Free State today.
It’s great to see the level of passion and commitment of fans at each club who live and breath every kick, every hit, every call and every try. There is no doubt that the tribal rivalries which exist within the Guinness PRO14 make it the most unique rugby tournament in the world. This season the Championship has become a truly global competition and today’s game is another example of that.
As we pass the halfway point of the season it’s exciting to point out that there are still so many teams in the mix to reach the Guinness PRO14 Final Series. Glasgow Warriors, Munster, Scarlets, Leinster and Ulster are all former champions and any of those teams could claim the trophy this season.
But keep an eye on the Toyota Cheetahs in 2018, they’re in a knock-out berth in Conference A and what a story that would be if they reached the Final Series in their first season. The Cheetahs have brought their daring style of rugby to northern hemisphere which has caught the imagination of European rugby fans and there is little doubt that they are fast becoming every fan’s second team.
Beyond the front runners you can see Cardiff Blues, Connacht, Benetton, Edinburgh all pushing hard and in contention for Champions Cup qualification, too, and I wouldn’t rule out Zebre, Ospreys or Dragons making a push for the Play-Off spot either.
I’d also like to voice admiration for the job that Head Coach Deon Davids is doing at the Southern Kings. With such little time to prepare his squad before the Guinness PRO14 season began, Coach Davids has still managed to ensure the Kings have played some eye-catching rugby and it’s clear that the efforts of the players, the coaches and the club support staff will be rewarded on the pitch sooner rather than later.
Of course, the Guinness PRO14 Final on May 26 is the ultimate celebration of the very best that our Championship has to offer and ticket sales are still going strong. Dublin’s Aviva Stadium provided a fitting setting (and a record attendance) last season and we know it will do so again this year.
The Final is no longer an occasion for fans of the Finalists, it’s an incredible occasion for rugby supporters from all over the world and no matter where you’re coming from you can rely on Gullivers Sports Travel to arrange tickets, hotels and flights as our Official Supporter Travel Partner for the Guinness PRO14 Final Series – see www.gulliverstravel.co.uk.
We also have a host of ticket options available to cater for every kind of match-day experience and please don’t forget to take advantage of our Early Bird offers on www.ticketmaster.ie where prices start at €5 for children and €30 for adults.
Enjoy the game,