'Hidden agendas at play’ in SA Rugby as Cheetahs players worry about PRO14 future
JOHANNESBURG – Veteran star Ruan Pienaar has lashed out at South African rugby authorities for not playing open cards with this country’s players about what may happen to the Cheetahs and Kings should this country’s rugby bosses opt to join Pro rugby in Europe from next year.
The rumours have been rife SA Rugby will ditch Super Rugby and push for the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers to be included in an expanded Pro 16 competition from 2021. If this were to happen and the competition were to include just 16 teams, then the Cheetahs and Kings could lose out on Pro rugby – the competition they were forced to join when they were kicked out of Super Rugby four years ago.
In an interview with IOL Sport on Wednesday, Pienaar, who played 141 games for Ulster before joining the Cheetahs last year, said it was extremely frustrating and disappointing SA Rugby was not saying what their specific plans were for the future.
“We are of course all worried about our futures and especially here at the Cheetahs we don’t even know where we’ll be playing next year, or if we’ll be playing,” said the 36-year-old scrumhalf.
“There’s really been nothing much from SA Rugby’s side, which is frustrating. Are you telling me none of them know what they want out of rugby next year? I believe there are hidden agendas at play and Covid-19 is being used to further those agendas.
Due to COVID19 travel restrictions in and out of SA we are unable to have our SA teams participate in @PRO14Official until 2021 and we are in regular dialogue with SARU on when our SA teams can rejoin in 2021 - we are adapting our format for 20/21 season only accordingly https://t.co/YNqLJkz24j— Martin Anayi (@MartinAnayi) August 25, 2020
“I understand that financially things are tough in the rugby world and some big decisions need to be made, but really, it would be terribly sad if the Cheetahs didn’t feature in a competition of international standard. This region has produced some of the best players this country has seen, so it is a very worrying time for us here in central South Africa.
“I just wish someone at SA Rugby would say what the plan is for the future – and be open about it.”
The 88-Test Springbok said he still had a few years left in him and that the nearly six months of not being able to play rugby because of Covid-19 had proved to him he still has the fire and desire to play on. “The time off has definitely given the body additional time to rest, which could prolong my career a bit, but what the time away from the game really showed me is that I still have the fire in me to keep going.
“I love the game, I love the competition, and I’m still healthy. So, for as long as I wake up every day and want to play, I will. It’s when it becomes a drag that I’ll consider given it up.”
And Pienaar said making matters worse right now was the fact rugby had started in New Zealand, Australia and in Europe, where some of his old mates were back in action in the Pro 14 and Premiership. “I’m definitely a bit jealous they’re all playing again, and we’re not,” said the former Sharks man.
“It’s been six months; the longest pre-season in the history of rugby. We all just want to get out there and play. It’s so tough not having a date to work towards, but what can we do?”