The Cheetahs women’s rugby team are looking to emulate the success of the men when they take to the final on Saturday in the First Division final in Bloemfontein.
The Free State will be up against the SWD Eagirls in the final of the competition. They go into this match with tremendous momentum as they are still unbeaten.
On Saturday the Cheetahs cruised into a home final with a resounding 74-5 victory over the Limpopo Blue Bulls in Bloemfontein. By the same token, the Eagirls beat the Leopards 22-17 at Outeniqua Park in George.
Reaching the final is a big deal for the Free State women’s team as they draw inspiration from the men winning the Currie Cup for a seventh time in June while they also aspire to hopefully turn professional. Most of the ladies playing in orange have full-time jobs, while some are mothers and others come from rural areas in the province.
Winning the final will allow them to play in a promotion-relegation game against the team that finishes last in the Premier Division. At this stage, that would be the Eastern Province Queens, however, the Premier Division is still ongoing.
The captain of the Free State, Bernice Strydom, told Bloemfontein Courant that although they are motivated to succeed and win in the final, it’s not all that they seek.
“Our main focus and motivation is winning the final and the relegation so that we can move up to the Premier Division. That is definitely our biggest motivation,” said the Springbok.
“If we as female rugby players in the Free State can move up to the Premier Division, we might get contracts as well. That will be something that will help all female players in the province a lot. A lot of us are still working eight-to-five jobs, some of us are mothers, or still live in rural areas. So, for us it’s not always as easy as it is for men.
“What really motivates us and pushes us to better heights and levels is knowing that if we win the final and relegation game we can move up to the Premier Division and become professional rugby players if we get contracts.”
Sne Mdletshe, who is a former University of the Free State Kovsies netball captain and Free State Crinums star, told Bloemfontein Courant they are certainly inspired by the men’s Currie Cup success earlier in the year, and they too want to make the badge proud.
“We are definitely drawing inspiration from what the men’s Cheetah team has done earlier in the year,” said the agile fullback who knows how to score tries.
“We wear the same badge and at the end of the day we all want to represent that badge as best as we can, whether it is the men’s or the women’s team.
“We really want to lift the Free State badge, and also do it for women’s rugby. This is a big year for us. Winning the final will give us an opportunity to play in the promotion-relegation game, and that’s where we want to be. We want to be in the upper division to compete with the top teams in South Africa.”
En route to the final, the Cheetahs scored a staggering 104 tries while conceding only six during their previous eight games. The team from the Garden Route in their turn crossed the whitewash on 69 occasions while conceding 15 tries. The last time these two teams met, the Free State ran out 40-0 winners in Bloemfontein.
Saturday’s final at the Toyota Stadium kicks off at 13:00. – MORGAN PIEK