Hawies Fourie. (Gallo Images)
- The Cheetahs are doubtful that they and the Kings will kick-start local rugby again towards the end of August with two PRO14 derbies as SA Rugby still needs approval from government to resume non-contact training.
- The cross-continental tournament’s abbreviated format for the current season would mean that the Cheetahs couldn’t make the playoffs anyway.
- Franchise coach Hawies Fourie will prepare his team for a Currie Cup as there might not be enough time for a domestic-based Super Rugby challenge to also take place.
Hawies Fourie, the Cheetahs’ head coach, remains unconvinced that South African rugby’s first competitive match since the Covid-19 shutdown will be two PRO14 derbies between his troops and the Southern Kings.
The cross-continental tournament’s governing body announced earlier this month that this year’s truncated campaign would be concluded through two rounds of domestic clashes before the playoffs, with 22 August being the earmarked date for a resumption.
However, SA Rugby still hasn’t had its customised return-to-training and -play framework approved by the sports ministry, with the federation last week confirming it needs clarity on whether teams in virus hotspots can start assembling again.
Nine of South Africa’s 14 unions are located in regions where government believes infection rates are rising.
“If I’m really honest, I don’t see us fulfilling those two fixtures against the Kings. It’s unlikely,” Fourie told Sport24.
“The thing with a situation like this is that it’s just too fluid. One week you hear that rugby’s leadership are positive of play resuming and a few days later you receive a different message. It’s not anyone’s fault, there’s just little in the way of clarity.”
Jurie Roux, SA Rugby’s chief, earlier this month expressed hope that the country could have rugby matches by August.
That target has now been pushed back to the beginning of September as the teams, who have been told to tentatively prepare for a 6 July return-to-training date, would need a pre-season of at least two months.
If the Cheetahs and Kings were able to play again by the end of August, their matches would be academic.
The PRO14’s abbreviated format only makes provision for semi-finals and a final, meaning that only the top two teams from each conference will go through.
Even a maximum haul of 10 points from the two derbies wouldn’t be enough for the Cheetahs to sneak into second place in Conference A.
They currently sit fourth on 32 points, while second-placed Ulster have already bagged 43.
The Kings are languishing in last position in Conference B with only one win from 13 starts.
“The other problem would’ve been international travel. There’s no guarantee we even would’ve been allowed to board a plane,” said Fourie.
Instead, the Cheetahs – whenever they get pack to training – are preparing for a Currie Cup tournament of sorts.
“If we start by September, I doubt there’ll be enough time for a Super Rugby and Currie Cup competition. We have no idea how things are going to turn out,” said Fourie.
“So, for now, we’re just taking anything that comes up in our stride and dealing with it as best we can.”