By Bongani Tshabalala
BLOEMFONTEIN-The Rainbow Cup SA starts this weekend with a double header of matches, but the Cheetahs have once again been left in the cold with no indication of a new competition “date” or when they will play again.
The Cheetahs are hoping to know soon what their future holds.
The Cheetahs Rugby Union is demanding answers from SA Rugby following their latest snub after being left out of the Rainbow Cup SA competition.
Chairman of the Cheetahs Board of Directors, Ryno Opperman, said they were surprised by the statement that the Rainbow Cup would take place in South Africa.
“We were taken aback, especially in light of the possible implications it could hold for South African rugby,” said Opperman.
“The Cheetahs were not aware of the details of the competition; especially not that a double round of matches was planned for the four participating teams,” he said.
Opperman believed this could adversely affect the rugby calendar and preparation for SA’s star tournament, the Currie Cup, as well as the British and Irish Lions tour.
“The announcement also means that recent discussions between SA Rugby and the unions about a Franchise Cup tournament that would have involved eight teams, cannot progress at this stage,” Opperman explained.
Opperman said however, the Cheetahs are not resting on their laurels, but are already planning matches in South Africa and abroad.
“These plans are being made in conjunction with SA Rugby, its coaching staff and other role players,” he said.
“After the Cheetahs were excluded from Super Rugby and Pro16, our approach has been to craft our own destiny in a constructive way,” he said.
“The Rainbow Cup provides only the four so-called “elite teams” (the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers) with match exposure and broadcast revenue,” Opperman lamented.
“We are also concerned that these “tough” matches between the four with the Currie Cup following immediately thereafter, could leave Springbok players tired and bruised with the added risk of injuries,” he said.
Opperman said in his view, this could leave SA Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus and Bok coach Jacques Nienaber with less-than-ideal circumstances to select the strongest Springbok team for the British and Irish Lions.