The Cheetahs' main sponsor, Toyota, has hit out at SA Rugby for booting the Bloemfontein-based franchise out of the PRO14.
Leon Theron, senior vice president: sales and marketing of Toyota South Africa, said in a statement published by Rapport newspaper that the company was eager to continue its nine-year sponsorship of the Cheetahs.
He called on SA Rugby to embrace the principle of promotion-relegation to ensure the best four South African teams play in an expanded PRO16.
This comes after SA Rugby recently pulled its four Super Rugby franchises - the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers - out of the southern hemisphere event in favour of playing in an expanded PRO Rugby event.
"It will be scandalous if the Cheetahs, the Currie Cup champions and PRO14 pioneers, who have been entertaining South African fans with their attacking and innovative rugby for more than a century, are deprived of this international exposure," said Theron.
"They have a good winning record so far in the Super Rugby Unlocked tournament and are producing a stream of talented players. SA Rugby must do everything in its power to ensure that the Cheetahs remain viable and strong.
"It is unfortunate that the Cheetahs were not included in the expanded PRO16 - in line with the assurance received from SA Rugby in this regard."
According to the Afrikaans publication, Toyota has pumped around R250-million into Cheetahs rugby over the past nine years.
The Cheetahs and Southern Kings joined the PRO14 in 2017 after both franchises lost their Super Rugby statuses.
- Compiled by Sport24 staff