The Free State Cheetahs are exploring all possibilities as they fight for survival following SA Rugby's decision to axe them from the PRO14.
Last week saw SA Rugby's general council vote to have the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers as the country's four franchises in a mooted PRO16 expansion.
The Cheetahs did, however, retain their franchise status and could feature in a "Super 8" competition that will secure them "additional income".
The Bloemfontein-franchise entered the PRO14 in 2017 when they, along with the Southern Kings, were cut from Super Rugby.
"The Free State Cheetahs are still engaged in high-level talks with SA Rugby, SuperSport, sponsors, other franchises and stakeholders to ensure the Cheetahs remain a valuable, viable and competitive franchise in South African rugby and world rugby in general," said their statement.
"The board of the Cheetahs this (Friday) morning mandated its negotiating team to continue with these complex, time-consuming and mostly constructive negotiations.
"While the Cheetahs reaffirm their entrenched rights in PRO14 and an expanded PRO16, they have actively pursued other opportunities.
"As rugby reorganises and reinvents itself after the Covid-19 impact, new permutations and opportunities arise.
"The board continues to explore possibilities in the interest of the Cheetahs, players, staff, supporters, sponsors and other stakeholders."
The Cheetahs are currently taking part in the ongoing Super Rugby Unlocked and are on top of the table after a bonus-point win against the Pumas last week.
The Cheetahs will host the Bulls in their second encounter on Friday at 19:00.
Meanwhile, the Kings will take no further part in the 2020 PRO14 season due to financial difficulties.
- Compiled by Sport24 staff