The Toyota Cheetahs are excited to finally welcome fans back to their fortress when they face Western Province on Saturday in the opening game of the Toyota Challenge Cup.
The tournament will see the Cheetahs playing in four games, and they will also be in action against the Sharks, as well as Baia Mare of Romania and Diables Barcelona of Spain.
Apart from the excitement of getting to play in a competitive series, the team is eager and ready to take to the field in front of their die-hard fans. As per the new norm, there will be several rules and regulations in place – such as the wearing of masks and social distancing. These will be strictly observed and enforced.
While only 2000 fully vaccinated spectators will be permitted to attend each of the games, it is something that they welcome.
The Cheetahs’ latest Springbok player, Rosko Specman, will be playing in his last two games for the team before reporting for duty at the Stormers in Cape Town.
Specmagic told Bloemfontein Courant he and the rest of the team are very excited to welcome fans back.
“I must say, I think the guys are ready and the Cheetahs are excited to get a few fans, who will make sure that they are fully vaccinated, back in the stadium.
“We are looking forward to it, especially as there are a lot of new and young guys in the team who aren’t used to playing in front of crowds. I’ve watched a few games with crowds and it something that is special and also weird at the same time. We are not used to the ambiance of the crowd anymore.
“It’s been a year and half now that we haven’t had fans coming in. That will also bring a new energy and it will show the guys why they are professional rugby players. I think all of their hard work in the preseason will pay off this weekend.”
The Springbok flanker, Oupa Mohoje who received his cap for 50 or more games in Cheetahs colours, in his turn told Bloemfontein Courant having supporters back means a great deal to them as a team.
“A part of the reason why we play rugby is because influencers and people need to come and watch us play. Having the supporters back next to the field is massive for us and it is going to be major boost for our confidence.
“While we’ve played a lot of games without any supporters because of Covid-19, to have even just two or three supporters is great, but 2000 fans mean a great deal for us as a team.”
The coach, Hawies Fourie, will be naming his team to face John Dobson’s Western Province on Thursday, while Saturday’s game at the Toyota Stadium kicks off at 17:30.
The Cheetahs did play in a warm-up against Zimbabwe over the weekend. While it was a practice session, the Cheetahs ran riot with a 78-7 win, with the winger, Danie Kasende, and centre, David Brits, each scoring a hat-trick of tries. – MORGAN PIEK