For anyone not up to date with events in the southern hemisphere, the Free Staters are newly-crowned Currie Cup champions and, with that perfect build-up to 2019-20, the feeling south of the equator is that if the Glasgow fixture goes well – the Cheetahs could take some stopping this season.
Currie Cup Bounce
The Cheetahs’ initial mission in the Guinness PRO14 is straightforward, to reach the Final Series as they did in 2018 (losing out to Scarlets in the quarter-finals) rather than last season’s struggles.
The Currie Cup omens certainly read well, for the last few months the Free Staters have been playing scintillating rugby and capped it all off in an entertaining final to beat the Golden Lions 31-28.
That scoreline looks close – in reality the match was not. The Guinness PRO14 side were primed for the huge final right from the off and stormed into a 31-7 half-time lead – three tries in the final 10 minutes producing the appearance of a tighter game.
A sixth Currie Cup trophy was sealed in style while the overall campaign has produced a multitude of incredible tries and crowd-pleasing rugby, with spectators in the province turning up in increasing numbers to culminate in a packed-out stadium for the final.
New scrum-half Ruan Pienaar, a key figure in the campaign, is looking to build on that spirit: “We are very pleased with how the Currie Cup turned out for us.
“It has been a great week with a lot of celebrations, but our focus is now on the Guinness PRO14, and we are excited to get going.
“We played eight matches in the Currie Cup and that was great preparation for us. This competition is a completely different challenge though, with a different style of rugby, as both South African teams learned in the last two seasons, but we are very excited for this campaign.”
Faces to watch
Perhaps the biggest change at the Cheetahs this season will be the head coach. Franco Smith goes out on a silverware high but will keep hold of the reins for the first three matches of the season before Hawies Fourie takes over with a young, fresh squad.
There’s plenty to look forward to in this campaign. Former Ulster hero Pienaar, 35, has hit the ground running and will pull the strings while monumentally powerful Springbok back row Oupa Mohoje is back, having overcome the knee injury that’s sidelined him for 12 months.
Last season’s strike men Rabz Maxwane and William Small-Smith are in form and back for more, while our tip for greatness is 23-year-old hooker Joseph Dweba – explosive, prolific and already making a charge for Bok honours.
— Toyota Cheetahs (@CheetahsRugby) September 12, 2019
Webb Ellis advantages
World Cup years always stir the pot and if a team can start well and build momentum, as Connacht did four years ago, it can carry you all the way to the Championship.
The Currie Cup then is especially relevant and the Cheetahs have the perfect chance to put their best foot forward, that opener in Bloemfontein followed by two more home fixtures, against Ulster on 5 October and Munster a week later.
In the week where it was announced former Cheetahs prop Os du Randt will be inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame, the Free Staters are in fizzing mood to seek fresh glories.
Cardiff City Stadium will play host to the 2020 Guinness PRO14 Final on June 20 as one of the most exciting days in the club rugby calendar comes to Wales!
General sale tickets are available from http://bit.ly/PRO14Cardiff2020 and prices start at just £13 for concessions and £26 for adults (subject to booking fees), that’s a 15% early bird discount. Family ticket (2 adults / 2 children) prices begin at £64 and fans are encouraged to buy early to get the best value tickets.