The planned domestic rugby competition in South Africa, which will feature the two Guinness PRO14 franchises, the Toyota Cheetahs and Southern Kings, as well as the Super Rugby teams, the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers, is set to go ahead later this year once the national Covid-19 lockdown has been lifted. In addition to the franchise teams competing in the tournaments, the Griquas and the Pumas are also set to compete in the highly anticipated tournament.
The governing body of the sport in South Africa has confirmed that the tournament is still on the cards but it is a matter of waiting and seeing how the situation in the country changes.
At this stage, should the government give the green light for sport in South Africa to resume, matches across all codes will be played behind ‘closed doors’. While the prospect of sport not having spectators in attendance is sad, the reality of the matter is that sport is so poorly attended in South Africa that it almost will not make that much of a difference.
Since the Cheetahs have started playing in the PRO14, there has been a lot of debate as whether the tournament, which gets contested in South Africa, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales, is better or stronger than the Super Rugby. Players who compete in the PRO14 and their coaches believe that it is just as strong and even tougher. Some, including the World Cup-winning Springbok coach, Rassie Erasmus, believe that the PRO14 is as close to Test match rugby as one can get. Fans of the teams competing in the Super Rugby beg to differ.
The local tournament may indeed put that debate to rest as it will effectively mean full strength PRO14 vs. Super Rugby teams. This is notional is simply brilliant for the local game and will no doubt provide for thrilling derbies.
The Cheetahs also welcome the fact that they will, for the first time, be able to truly measure how they have developed as a team since controversially being booted out of the Super Rugby.
The Cheetahs flyhalf, Tian Schoeman, is certainly excited about the prospect of playing against more South African teams at franchise level.
“I can’t say that I am not excited. I am really excited about it. I’m hoping and actually praying that the tournament will be happening,” the backline marshal told Bloemfontein Courant.
“You want to know who the best team in South Africa is, and the Currie Cup is there for that, but unfortunately the Springboks don’t normally play in the Currie Cup.
“It will be awesome to have a good and stable measure between the unions and being able to measure who the best team is.
“For rugby in South Africa it will be a great boost and even for the spectators it will be awesome,” Schoeman said.
The Cheetahs are the defending Currie Cup champions and while they are no longer under the guidance of Franco Smith, who led them to a sixth title, they will sure use that status as a confidence booster heading into the domestic series. – MORGAN PIEK