Franco Smith says the Cheetahs are an integral part of the South African rugby landscape and should be treated as such when SA Rugby decides about the immediate future of its franchises.
According to various reports, SA Rugby is working on a proposed plan to have four of its franchises included in an expanded PRO16 tournament, reducing the number of its franchises from six to four.
The Cheetahs and Kings are still reportedly the two franchises in the most danger of losing their status, if the proposal to expand the PRO14 goes ahead.
Smith, a former Cheetahs player and coach, has since come out in defence of Bloemfontein franchise, which, he believes, is an important part of the South African rugby DNA.
‘They have been moved out of competitions before and unfortunately this time it doesn’t look good,’ Smith told OFM.
‘They’ve already been a part of Super Rugby as the Cats when they were joined by the Lions, and then on their own. Then, later on, they were moved out of the Super Rugby and joined PRO Rugby. Now there is a lot of talk around their future in PRO Rugby as well.
‘The reasons for why the Cheetahs are important to South African rugby have never changed. It’s a natural talent hotbed, that gives players a chance, who usually don’t get a chance at other franchises.
‘It is also very important for the central part of South African rugby supporters, and also the growth of the game among the youth.
‘So, it will be a sad day if it happens. Unfortunately, we realise that the finances of the world determine the outcome of these competitions, and I know that the rugby landscape is changing worldwide.
‘I sincerely hope that there is a way to find a solution and make sure that all of the franchises, including the Cheetahs, are looked after well.’
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