Super Rugby

Drotske: 'Sad day' if Cheetahs are axed

Naka Drotske (Gallo Images)
Naka Drotske (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Naka Drotske, who coached the Cheetahs in Super Rugby from 2007-2015, says it will be a sad day to see his beloved franchise axed from the tournament in 2018.

This comes after SANZAAR confirmed that Super Rugby will be reduced from 18 to 15 teams from next year with speculation rife that the Kings and the Cheetahs will be the two South African teams scrapped.

"It'll be sad if it happens because it would be difficult for the union to survive if they don't play Super 18 anymore, so that would be a sad day in Cheetahs rugby. But it's obviously not in our hands," Drotske told Sport24 in an exclusive interview.

The Cheetahs' performance this Super Rugby season hasn't helped either.

The Bloemfontein franchise have lost 10 of their 13 matches, which included an embarrassing 61-7 loss to the Hurricanes this month.

The 46-year-old former Springbok and Cheetahs hooker praised his successor, Franco Smith, despite the franchise's horrid season, saying that it was always going to be tough.

Drotske added that the players' confidence had contributed to their poor Super Rugby campaign.

"It's not looking good at this stage, but it's a really tough competition and with a franchise like the Cheetahs you never have continuity and big players like the other unions," said Drotske.

"So at this stage, Franco (Smith) has a lot of inexperienced players and it's really tough, especially when your players start losing confidence.

"It's tough to bounce back when you're so far in the competition and have players lose confidence, but there's a break now with the Tests so hopefully they can get some injured players back and gain some confidence.

"There are positives coming out, it's still a young squad and Franco is a good coach so it'll be a pity if we lose our Super 18 status, because it will be difficult to get players to Bloemfontein or recruit players all over South Africa."

As South Africans sought alternatives to save their Super Rugby sides, the prospect of the rebirth of the Cats franchise was also briefly entertained until SA Rugby ruled it out earlier this month. 

The old Cats franchise, which merged the Lions and Cheetahs, was active between 1998 and 2005 in Super Rugby.

Drotske, who played for the Cats between 1998-1999, agreed that forming the Cats once again would not work out.

"I don't think so. I've played for the Cats and it's tough when you create a new franchise and you try to merge teams with various cultures and try and create a new identity," said Drotske.

"So there's a lot of pride with the Lions and Cheetahs so to merge them - it's not going to work. I've been there and I can speak from first hand that it's not possible.

"You'll have Cheetahs players playing in Johannesburg for six months away from their wives and families and that's not good for morale."

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