Cape Town - The Cheetahs will play a friendly game against Japanese club Toyota Verblitz later this year.
The game, to be played on Friday, 23 July in Japan, will serve as preparation for the Japan Top League and Currie Cup competitions.
The match will further strengthen the friendship ties between the two teams - who share the same sponsor.
At the end of the 2014 season and after losing a number of players because of limited funding, Free State Cheetahs (Pty) Ltd established a programme whereby players could play in Japan during the Currie Cup season and return to play for the Cheetahs' Super Rugby franchise at the conclusion of the Japanese league.
By having Toyota as a sponsor it enabled Free State Rugby to engage freely with Verblitz, a Toyota owned club in Japan.
After Free State's Director of Rugby, Rory Duncan, visited Verblitz in 2015, discussions took place regarding the road ahead.
Various opportunities were identified for both the Cheetahs and Verblitz to strengthen their rugby programmes.
Projects involve the development of both coaches and players in an attempt to better the overall rugby performance within both teams.
The following objectives and strategies were identified:
A contacting model has been developed that allows Verblitz and the Cheetahs to recruit players and compete with other clubs/franchises. Both teams are open to the idea of joint contracting of players whereby the player will be contracted in Japan for the Japan Top League competition and in South Africa for the Super Rugby competition.
The objective is to offer development opportunities for Verblitz players by having them train and possibly play for the Super Rugby or Currie Cup Qualifiers team.
The Cheetahs have invited two Japanese players to join the team for the Currie Cup qualifying round whilst the team is not playing any league games. Yosuke Takahashi and Yoshizumi Takeda are currently in Bloemfontein training with the Free State XV Currie Cup squad.
Cheetahs utility forward, Francois Uys, played for Verblitz for a brief period before the start of the 2016 Super Rugby competition.
Verblitz to visit the Cheetahs
Verblitz management visited the Cheetahs during October 2015 to gain knowledge of the Cheetahs rugby programme whilst at the same time assessing the environment that their players will be playing.
Four additional members of the Verblitz management are currently joining the two players in Bloemfontein to have a further look at the Cheetah’s structures and to exchange ideas with Cheetahs management team.
Former Springbok prop and Cheetahs forwards coach, Os du Randt, joined Verblitz at the end of May 2015 for a two year coaching contract. Coaches from Free State Rugby will also be travelling to Japan later this year to exchange ideas with their Japanese counterparts.
The vision is to establish a reciprocal relationship between the Cheetahs and Verblitz that will ensure the continued improvement of both teams.