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URC looking at 'B Division' that will include Cheetahs

By Jan De Koning
A United Rugby Championship ball /Getty

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A crucial meeting of the minds at the end of the month could pave the way for the Cheetahs to return to international competition in Europe.

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Having been given a proverbial ‘raw deal’ by the South African Rugby Union – first being kicked out of Super Rugby and then the Pro14 (now United Rugby Championship) – it seems the Cheetahs will be allowed back in via the back door.

Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie, speaking after his team maintained their unbeaten run in the Currie Cup w
A crucial meeting of the minds at the end of the month could pave the way for the Cheetahs to return to international competition in Europe.

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Frans Steyn chats about ‘something special’ happening with the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein
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Frans Steyn chats about ‘something special’ happening with the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein

Fourie admitted the way forward remains a call for the South African Rugby Union to make. However, a meeting at the end of April could set up a type of a URC ‘B Division’.

“They will call it the United Rugby Shield,” the Cheetahs coach revealed, adding that it has been “coming a long time”.

“We have been promising since December 2020 that this will happen and it is now ‘two years’ down the line.

“It looks promising. We really hope it will materialise and they will finalise it at the end of the month.”

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It has been a roller coaster ride for the Cheetahs, who was one of the two new franchises that entered the expanded Super 14 competition in 2006.

Following SANZAAR’s decision to reduce the number of teams for 2018, SARU announced that the Cheetahs would be one of the teams cut from the 2018 competition.

Instead, the Cheetahs joined the expanded Northern Hemisphere venture – from Pro12 to Pro14 – prior to the 2017–18 season.

In 2020 SARU revealed that the Cheetahs and Southern Kings are to be axed from the Pro14 – with the Lions, Bulls, Sharks and Stormers moving north to join the expanded 16-team URC.

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The Cheetahs, who moved to within a point of Currie Cup leaders the Bulls with their win over WP in Cape Town on Friday, have made winning the Currie Cup a priority.

In Cape Town on Friday, the visiting Cheetahs clinched an important 28-21 away win thanks to a lively second-half performance, and they are still unbeaten with 31 points on the log from seven matches.

The Bulls, who have played one match more, are on 32 points, while the Sharks remain third on 24 points, with Griquas – who beat the Lions by 23-17 in Johannesburg on Thursday, now only four points behind the coastal side.

The Pumas had a bye this weekend and remain fifth on 15 points, and they are followed by the WP (one win from eight matches on nine points), and the Lions (still winless on three points).

The next round of matches is scheduled for May 6 and 7 May, when the Lions host the Cheetahs in Johannesburg, the Pumas travel to Durban to take on the Sharks, and the Bulls face Griquas in Pretoria.

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