The Toyota Free State Cheetahs will be fielding their strongest possible teams in the Currie Cup this year, as well as in the 2019/20 Guinness Pro14. This comes as it has been confirmed that the two competitions will not be overlapping this year.
The exact dates for both competitions have not been confirmed yet, however, the world’s oldest domestic competition will start earlier in 2019, while by the same token the Pro14 is expected to kick off slightly later due it being a Rugby World Cup year.
This is quite a significant development for the Cheetahs, as it will affect their contracting model. This means that the franchise will be contracting a lot fewer players, but they will be in the position to offer better contracts. This will hopefully and should lure some better or higher market value players to the Free State.
The first contract has been signed with the towering 2.09m tall lock, JP du Preez, committing to the Cheetahs for a further three years.
The Cheetahs CEO Harold Verster, told OFM Sport, that this is very important for the franchise, as is critical in their development as an entity.
“It is critical. We are a small entity, a small franchise, and a small union with a limited number of players, so to have two competitions overlapping is just not on for us. We tried it, we thought we could make it, but it was just not on.
“With the two competitions not overlapping, we can play in the Currie Cup with a full Pro14 team and squad. That will assist us in making the Currie Cup our flagship competition again, with Pro14 being our international competition.
Furthermore, the Cheetahs will now be in a position to be a lot smarter with contracting, instead of almost being forced to fill the numbers. Verster is of the view that this will without a doubt lead to the Cheetahs rolling a better product out onto the field week-in, week out.
“It is absolutely true, we have over-contracted in an attempt to try and manage both competitions in the same time-frame, and to be honest we were the ones on the receiving end.
“There is a whole new scene in South African rugby relating to player contracting. The numbers of professional rugby players in South Africa will be reduced quite significantly. We have seen the new contracting model of the Springbok coach, Rassie Erasmus, and that will suit us.
“We have signed most of our players until May 2020, and we will re-sign going forward. JP (Du Preez) is an example, we’ve signed him for another three years, and there will be more signings.
“What we want to achieve is to build a very strong base of players. A small group, but a group with top quality players going into the Currie Cup and Pro14.
“We will have less under 19’s and under 21’s because the Currie Cup and Pro14 will be the flagship tournaments, so we don’t really need a big squad. We will be focusing on the core squad. There will be about 12 to 15 under 21 players to fill the gaps when players leave us.”
Meanwhile, the Cheetahs are confident that they will be able to retain the services of the centre, Nico Lee. The exciting player has been linked with a club in England and a franchise in South Africa. Should they not manage to secure his signature, this opens the door for the Cheetahs to welcome the flyhalf, Niel Marais, back for a second spell at the team. – MORGAN PIEK