South African rugby results in Europe: Cheetahs surprise

South African rugby results

The South African rugby results in European competition have been more positive than the more pragmatic fans would have expected. Travel and squad depth has been a constant concern for many, especially when the step up from the URC to full European involvement was brought into the equation.

Review 2021/22 South African rugby results in Europe

During their first competitive year in the United Rugby Championship, it was only the most loyal of fans who would have predicted an all South African final. The reality is that the Stormers beat the Bulls at the Cape Town Stadium and are the reigning URC champions.

South African rugby results in Europe – 2022/23

There is still a lot to happen in this season’s competitions. In the URC, there a missed games to be replayed for both the Sharks and the Lions and those will have an impact on playoff spots. In terms of the Champions Cup, the three competing South African teams have all made it to the knock-out stages. In their first attempt at the competition, the Bulls, Sharks and Stormers have all made it through to the last 16.

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The Lions are also through to the last 16 of the Challenge Cup on their first attempt. The real story here is the qualification of the Cheetahs for the last 16 of the same competition.

The Toyota Cheetahs in Europe

The Cheetahs participation in European competition is by invitation and not qualification. This is what is so pleasing to the South African audience. Many of them regard the Cheetahs as their “second team”.Β  The Cheetahs are known for being an organization that grooms young talent to become professional rugby players. The constant flow of quality players from the Cheetahs to other South African (as well as European) teams has been their biggest problem.

SA Rugby has always found it difficult to accommodate a fifth rugby franchise in regional rugby competitions. In the early Super Rugby years, they were lumped together with the Lions in the failed Cats venture. They were always able to compete, but were never successful. Still able to qualify for the last 16 playoffs despite not being able to compete in a bridging/qualifying competition like the URC, the Cheetahs had to keep themselves relevant and match ready by organizing their own competitive series – the Toyota challenge. They also did not have the advantage of playing any games at their home stadium.

What does this mean for the Cheetahs?

From a playing squad point of view, the tweet below says it all.

Siya Masuku π™‰π˜Όπ™„π™‡π™Ž the kick! 🎯@CheetahsRugby are through to the Round of 16 and look what it means ❀️ #ChallengeCupRugby

If we consider their immediate future, it is significant. They are still likely to lose their marquee players. It is the next level players that will be encouraged to either join the Cheetahs or to stay with them. The hope is there to continue to play at a higher representative level. For those who are looking to move on, they are in the shop window to attract attention from the other four domestic teams or internationally. All of this would be mutually beneficial for the players and the Cheetahs as they find their feet in their new circumstances.

The ‘Last Word’ on South African rugby in Europe

South African rugby results in Europe in the last two seasons have been very encouraging. Entry into traditionally European competitions has largely been accepted by a South African audience eager for new challenges that also make sense in terms of match times. The current product is more watchable than Super Rugby was due to the reduction in time zones. The Rubik’s cube that was the Super Rugby qualifying format is now also a thing of the past.

There are nay-sayers in Europe who will not agree with the new landscape. “Africa is not in Europe” is a popular rallying call. Technically, they are correct. South African stakeholders cannot re-arrange the world map to push Africa into Europe to accommodate rugby competitions but, that isn’t the point. As a professional sport, decisions are made for the betterment of the business.

South African European rugby

The inclusion of the South African teams was not done at a whim. Cash changed hand. Rightly so in a professional sport, and that killed the emotive notion that traditionally European-based teams’ competitions should forever be preserved as such in a bottle of formaldehyde.

The game and the business of rugby cannot be allowed to stagnate in antiquated thinking that does not embrace change and improvement. From there, South African rugby results have been a reinforcement of the strength of the franchises involved, at home and away. Great work by all involved in shaking up both the South African and European games.


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