It is a very tough competition – Ebersohn

Robert Ebersohn. PHOTO: Morgan Piek.

The Toyota Cheetahs will be in for a tough time when they take to the field later in the year in the European Challenge Cup, and there will be a lot to play for as they make a welcome return to an international competition.

This is according to the Cheetahs centre and former captain, Robert Ebersohn. The Cheetahs have the luxury of having two players in their current squad that played in and won the Challenge Cup in the past.

On Thursday it was confirmed that the Cheetahs and the Lions will be playing in the competition, while the Bulls, Sharks and Stormers will compete in the Champions Cup. This is by virtue of these three franchises finishing in the top eight of the United Rugby Championship.

In 2016, Ebersohn, was in the French Top14 team, Montpellier, when they won the tournament by beating Harlequins of England 26-19 in the final in Lyon, France. The English side from The Stoop fielded players such Joe Marler and Danny Care in the final.

On the day Ebersohn and his current Cheetahs teammate, Frans Steyn, were both on the victorious side, while other former Cheetahs in action in that game were the Du Plessis brothers, Bismarck and Jannie. Other South Africans in the game were Paul Willemse (now France), Pierre Spies, Jacques du Plessis and Demetri Catrakilis. The former Springbok coach, Jake White, was in charge of the team during his first season at the French club.

Ebersohn said that the news came as a massive surprise and the players were left in shock, and this while they were doing their final honing for Friday’s Currie Cup game against the Pumas.

“It is very good news for us,” said the seasoned midfielder.

“It was weird for us, because we were busy training when they announced the news and some of us were still in shock. We asked if this was real or what was happening? It was a massive surprise because no one told us anything.

“The CEO, Ross van Reenen, just came onto the field and said here’s the evidence and the news is out there. We were all in a bit of shock and didn’t know what had happened, but it’s great news for us. We are very happy about the news.”

Ebersohn added that the make up of the competition makes it a very tough competition to play in, with tough and good teams and there is a lot to play for.

“It is a very tough competition, especially because there are only six games in your pool, and then you have to progress to a quarter-finals, semi-finals and final.

“It was and still is a very prestigious competition. It’s a really good competition to play in, and it’s also a difficult competition to play in.

“You’ve only got six games and then it’s done. It’s a quick one and you’ve got to be ready. I also understand that if you win this competition like Lyon did last weekend against Toulon, you automatically qualify to play in the Champions Cup, regardless of where you finish in your domestic competition.

“There is a lot to play for and it’s a very big honour for us to play there.”

The Cheetahs are set to play their first games in December and they will be based in Parma, Italy.

Morgan Piek