Cheetahs clinging to Super Rugby lifeline
REACTION: The Cheetahs have been linked to at least two European competitions, but they are clinging to a Super Rugby lifeline.
Recent reports have linked the Cheetahs - one of two South African teams at risk of being axed from Super Rugby - to the Pro12 and Anglo-Welsh Cup competitions in Europe.
The Anglo-Welsh Cup option won't happen until changes to the game's global calendar kick in, in 2020.
However, the Pro12 option could see the Cheetahs - who have obtained legal 'advice' over their proposed axing by the South African Rugby Union - move north as early as September this year.
Organisers of the Pro12 have been looking to expand the cross-border competition - which includes teams from Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Italy - for some time now.
They are desperate to bring in additional TV revenue and create a conference system.
Pro12 bosses have admitted they are also looking at the North American market.
However, South African teams are in the same time zone as Europe, while North America will provide the same time zone issue that has turned Super Rugby scheduling into a disastrous mess.
The Cheetahs have thrown a veil of silence over the European links, but admitted they have not given up on remaining in Super Rugby.
"The Free State Cheetahs are currently taking proactive steps to ensure their continued involvement in Super Rugby," Ronel Pienaar, Manager: Strategic Communication, at FS Cheetahs (Pty) Ltd told rugby365.
"The board of directors at the Free State Cheetahs is currently negotiating with SARU in this regard.
"The board is confident that a 'strong case' can be made for the Cheetahs' continued involvement in Super Rugby.
"Due to the sensitive nature and importance of the matter, the Free State Cheetahs cannot comment any further on the matter."
While the Cheetahs' response to rugby365's enquiries did not address the European options, they also did not deny it - which they would have done if there was no substance to those reports.
The Pro12 will fill the void should the Cheetahs be axed from Super Rugby, while the Anglo-Welsh option could become an additional competition that will give the Cheetahs a second bite at the European apple.
The Anglo-Welsh Cup is a knock-out competition featuring the 12 English Premiership clubs and the four Welsh regions and runs concurrently with the Six Nations competition.
According to BBC Sport, Premiership Rugby is investigating the possibility of introducing South African Currie Cup teams into the competition.
According to the report, changes to rugby's calendar post-2019 would offer English bosses the chance to invite Currie Cup teams into the developmental tournament.
By Jan de Koning