BLOEMFONTEIN – The Free State Cheetahs have come out fighting in response to comments made by Joel Stransky in a New Zealand radio interview in which he said he hoped the Cheetahs and Kings would be axed from the Super Rugby tournament.
Stransky made several accusations and said by culling the two franchises, this would leave four strong South African teams.
In a statement, the Cheetahs said that more than a third of the way into the Super Rugby competition the Cheetahs were ranked in the top four of the South African teams.
Responding to Stransky’s comment that “financially the Cheetahs are not sustainable”, the franchise said it was one of the few teams to show a profit in the 2017 financial year.
“As an entity, the Free State Cheetahs (Pty) Ltd embarked on a five-year financial plan and is realising better than expected results. Furthermore, the only the rugby entity in South Africa to have a sold-out stadium in the 2016 season,” said the statement.
The Cheetahs also refuted Stransky’s claim that they have a very low supporter base along with the Kings.
Said the Cheetahs statement: “2016 broadcasters viewership numbers show that the Cheetahs have larger viewership numbers than any of the Australian and New Zealand franchises.
“The Cheetahs combined total unique audience for Super Rugby and Currie Cup measures comfortably within the top four positions in South African Rugby.”
The Cheetahs also maintain they are the conveyer belt for great young talent, coaches and administrators (Franco Smith, Niel Powell, Brendan Venter, Rassie Erasmus, Jacques Nienaber, Ian Swartz).
“We can also boast that we had 10 players included in the 2017 Springbok training squad of which seven players are of colour further highlighting out contribution towards the transformation of South African rugby.”