The Cheetahs on plans to be competitive on two fronts
Having prioritised the Pro14 in previous seasons‚ the Cheetahs can now change tack due to their state of limbo in the European competition.
They are likely to shift focus to the Currie Cup once South African teams get the go-ahead to resume combat with early September having been identified as a potential kick-off.
Last season the Cheetahs deployed mostly u21 players in the Currie Cup with the seniors doing duty in Pro14. It met with a predictable outcome with the Cheetahs finishing bottom of the Currie Cup points table.
However‚ their coronavirus-enforced hiatus from Pro14 will give them the opportunity to focus on a Currie Cup that will be a very keenly contested ice breaker amid the general thaw of lockdown restrictions.
“We are hoping to have a good Currie Cup. We then hope to catch up the Pro14 matches from mid December into January‚” said a Cheetahs insider.
SA Rugby have already indicated they are a seeking a return-to-competition in the last week in August or early September.
“That can generate great excitement I think‚” said the source.
The Currie Cup will be contested by the Bulls‚ Lions‚ Cheetahs‚ Sharks‚ Kings‚ Griquas‚ Pumas and Western Province and will be played over a double round‚ home and away‚ before climaxing with semi-finals and a final.
This season’s now abbreviated Pro14 competition is scheduled to restart on August 22. The Cheetahs’ only remaining matches are derbies against the Kings.
Those matches are scheduled for August 22 and 29‚ but it is unlikely they will be played then.
There is also uncertainty about next season’s Pro14 competition.
“We probably won’t be able to tour any time soon‚” said the insider.
“Everything is so unsure at the moment. We just don’t know. Tours are going to be very difficult but if they were to be sanctioned‚ the idea would be to tour later in the (Pro14) season‚ in the new year‚ and do that along with the Kings at a central location.”
They will be holed up in a so called ‘bubble’ somewhere in the United Kingdom or Ireland for around two months.
The source admitted that having to stay away for two months would be too expensive.
“That is problematic‚” said the insider.
But the even bigger question is if the Cheetahs and the Kings will be part of future Pro14 tournaments.
A new configuration may see the introduction of the South Africa’s four Super Rugby franchises.
“Pro14 is not certain whether it will expand to 16‚ 18 or 20 teams‚” said the source.
“We don’t know. All we are saying is we’ve earned our rights there and we want to stay there.”