Former Cheetahs centre William Small-Smith is frustrated to see his former team axed from the PRO14 but doesn't think there's a sinister plan from SA Rugby to discard the Bloemfontein franchise.
With the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers now South Africa's participants in the PRO14, the Cheetahs are left out in the cold.
Small-Smith, who recently retired from rugby due to concussion concerns, told Sport24 last week that SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux and director of rugby Rassie Erasmus were working hard managing a tricky situation.
"I believe Rassie Erasmus and Jurie Roux are trying to do what is best for South African rugby. I don't think they are out with their pitchforks trying to kill the Cheetahs or to only have four unions. I believe they are fighting for the financial survival of South African rugby and have a plan with it all," Small-Smith said.
Small-Smith did concede though that he was frustrated seeing the Cheetahs, whom he represented between 2016 and 2021, out in the cold.
There are plans for the Cheetahs to participate in an Intercontinental Shield competition in Europe but nothing has been confirmed as of yet.
"When you're in the Cheetahs' shoes it's a bitter pill to swallow. First we were in Super Rugby and then got kicked out. We forged our way in the PRO14, played in the play-offs in our first year and were then told, 'Sorry, you're out!'
"It's tough for the players not knowing which tournament they're playing in and if they're going to be relevant anymore. You can't blame anyone personally because I believe the decision-makers are trying to do what's best for South African rugby."
Small-Smith was adamant that the Cheetahs needed to find a foothold in a new tournament sooner, rather than later.
"It would really be a shame if the Cheetahs aren't part of the future of SA rugby. They play an integral part in the development of our players and serve as a feeder system to the Springboks.
"So many players made their name at the Cheetahs and if that structure falls away, how are we going to ensure that we have the biggest catchment area of players and talent? Fortunately chairman Ryno Opperman, managing director Harold Verster and coach Hawies Fourie are competent and behind the scenes I’m sure they are trying to make the best plans," he said.
The Intercontinental Cup will consist of teams from Spain, Germany and Russia and is believed to kick off in October.