"Georgian Club Included" EPCR Challenge Cup Announces Two Invitational Sides for 2023/24 - Ruck

“Georgian Club Included” EPCR Challenge Cup Announces Two Invitational Sides for 2023/24

The long-awaited reveal of the two invited teams, that will compete in the 2023/24 EPCR Challenge Cup was announced today. Georgian club Black Lion and South African side the Toyota Cheetahs have been added to the competition, which is set to commence on December 8th.

Montpellier Captain’s Run, Twickenham, London, England 20/5/2021 A view of the Challenge Cup Trophy Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan/PPAUK

It is a historical moment for Georgian club rugby, as Black Lion become the first side from the Eastern European country to play in either the EPCR Challenge Cup or the Champions Cup. The Cheetahs are set to make their return to the competition, despite speculation surrounding their uncertainty. The Bloemfontein side were eliminated by last season’s winners RC Toulon in the 2022/23 campaign.

The Toyota Cheetahs will face Oyonnax Rugby, Pau, Cell C Sharks and Zebre Parma in Pool 1 with Amsterdam, Netherlands as their agreed ‘home’ base for European opposition. Their pool stage match against the Cell C Sharks will be played in either Bloemfontein or Durban depending on the outcome of the fixture scheduling process.

23.03.18 – Dragons v Toyota Cheetahs – Guinness PRO14 – Clayton Blommetjies of Toyota Cheetahs scores

Black Lion go into Pool 3 where they will take on two former tournament winners in Gloucester Rugby and ASM Clermont Auvergne, as well as Castres Olympique and Scarlets with their two home matches staged in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi.

EPCR Chairman, Dominic McKay, said: “The inclusion of Black Lion and the return of the Toyota Cheetahs reflect a continuing commitment to widen the scope of our tournaments and to showcase new, exciting talent for fans worldwide. The Toyota Cheetahs have already enhanced the EPCR Challenge Cup with their performance last season, and we are confident that the Georgians’ passion and physicality will further raise the intensity of the tournament.”

Gela Aprasidze of Georgia during the Autumn Nations Cup match between England and Georgia at Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham, London on November 14 2020. – PHOTO: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

Georgian Rugby Union President, Ioseb Tkemaladze, said: “This is a hugely important moment for Georgian rugby and for the country. We’ve all been working hard for this – on the pitch and behind the scenes – for many years. We’re grateful to EPCR for taking a lead and showing the vision that is needed to further the global development and growth of the game. My personal gratitude to Dominic McKay and his amazing team for their hard work and support.”

Toyota Cheetahs Chief Executive, Ross van Reenen, said: “We are pleased to have been invited to compete again in the EPCR Challenge Cup and after qualifying for the knockout stage last season, we believe we have the capacity to perform to a higher level in 2023/24. We are looking forward to making a big impression in Pool 1 of the tournament.”