The Toyota Cheetahs will have to make do without the services of three of their star players for the next while after the franchise reached a player development agreement with the Ospreys in Wales.
The hooker, Marnus van der Merwe, as well as the scrumhalf Rewan Kruger and the winger Daniel Kasende will all be playing their rugby for the Welsh team on short-term deals in the United Rugby Championship.
This will be the first time since the Cheetahs were booted out of the PRO14 that the Cheetahs players will be competing against the best teams from South Africa, Wales, Ireland, Italy and Scotland.
In return, the Cheetahs will be getting players from the Welsh union to come and play their rugby in Bloemfontein.
Van der Merwe made his Cheetahs debut back in 2018 against the very same Ospreys in the then PRO14. Kruger has been an understudy to the seasoned Ruan Pienaar for quite some time and during the Currie Cup this year he started making the number nine jersey his own. Kasende just oozes with class when he is fully fit and on fire. He is certainly one of the most dangerous wingers in the country.
The CEO of the Cheetahs, Ross van Reenen, said this is an exciting opportunity for the players of both teams as well as the sport in general.
“The new player development partnership between us and the Ospreys is an exciting new opportunity not only for both teams but the sport as a whole, and we’re excited to be leading the way.
“The partnership opens a platform for shared skills and learnings across cultures and styles to help build the development of both teams.”
The General Manager of Ospreys Rugby, Dan Griffiths, in turn shared the sentiments of Van Reenen, as they seek continuous improvement.
“We are thrilled to partner with Cheetahs Rugby in what we believe is a game-changer for the player loan system. This partnership will provide our players with unmatched opportunities to grow and develop their skills, while experiencing rugby in a different part of the world.
“We are committed to fostering an environment of continuous improvement while continuing to compete at the highest level.”
The former Cheetahs prop, Tom Botha, still plays for the Ospreys while the Currie Cup winning scrumhalf, Shaun Venter, also represented the team before moving over to France.
The Ospreys have a very rich history and have produced some of the very best Welsh players. They include the wingers, Shane Williams and George North, the record-breaking lock Alun Wyn Jones, the flyhalf Dan Biggar and the loose-forward Justin Tipuric.
It is unlikely that Van der Merwe, Kruger and Kasende will be ready to play in the Ospreys next game which will be against the former Cheetahs coach, Franco Smith’s Glasgow Warriors in Swansea on Saturday. – MORGAN PIEK