Nestled in the heart of the Free State the Cheetahs were the first South African side to truly embrace the new age of attacking rugby and consequently winning the hearts of rugby fanatics across South Africa, labeling the Cheetahs as their second side.
The Bloemfontein based outfit may not have been one of the heavyweight challengers in Super Rugby but they could certainly box with the big boys.
Super Rugby History
The Super Rugby competition moved to the conference format in 2011, therefore all placements on the overall standings.
Throughout their Super Rugby history, the Cheetahs have been written off by most pundits and like most underdogs have in sporting history have beaten the odds to claim historic victories.
In 2009 The Cheetahs claimed a huge scalp when they beat the most successful side in Super Rugby history, the Crusaders, 20-13 in Bloemfontein.
They repeated that feat in 2011 beating the Crusaders 33-20.
They furthered their success in 2011 beating when they won their first game outside of South Africa against the Waratahs.
Their sole appearance in the playoff stages of the competition came in 2013, where they lost 15-13 against the Brumbies in Canberra.
Despite never winning the Super Rugby competition, the Cheetahs are the current Currie Cup champions, South Africa's premium provincial competition, reaching the final 6 times since 2000 and winning twice and sharing it another time.
The Cheetahs head into the Pro 14 off of a Super Rugby season that saw them win 4 of their 15 matches. They did, however, play against all 5 of the New Zealand sides. They have also been testing their depth in the Currie Cup with some of their players on international duty and others being rested for the upcoming season.
So far they top the Currie Cup log winning 5 of their 6 matches, with their one losing coming against Griquas and it was their first loss since their 2015 semi final against Western Province.
The Cheetahs will head into the start of the Pro 14 season relatively light with some of their key players lacking recent game time and others on international duty.
The average age of the 28-man squad named for their opening 2 fixtures in Ireland is 25 but includes some stalwarts in the likes of Rhyno Benjamin, Torsten van Jaarsveld, Cecil Africa and Rynier Bernardo.
The Cheetahs will be without the services of captain Francois Venter, winger Raymond Rhule and flanker Uzair Cassiem who are all on international duty.
Torsten van Jaarsveld is likely to lead to the side in Venter's absence depending on the hooker's fitness after he missed the end of the Super Rugby season through and did not play in the Currie Cup.
The Cheetahs are currently running low in the flyhalf stocks and have only named one out and out flyhalf in 22-year-old, Robbie Petzer, who is essentially the Cheetahs 5th choice flyhalf and made his Currie Cup debut last weekend. The Cheetahs first three flyhalves options, Niel Marais, Fred Zeilinga and Ryno Eksteen are all injured, while new signing Ernst Stapelberg's appendix burst just days after signing for the side.
The Cheetahs have plenty of depth in their outside backs with 3 Blitzbokke boasting their squad for the opening few rounds at least with Cecil Afrika, Rhyno Benjamin and Rosko Specman in the squad.
Players to watch
Venter is the Cheetahs captain and will miss opening rounds of the Pro 14 season as he is on international duty.
He also has a fantastic all-round ability and a never die attitude.
A Springbok loosehead in the making Ox Nche has an amazing ball running ability and is a handy scrummager.
Cecil Afrika & Rosko Specman
If you have ever treated yourself to a Blitzbok game you would have heard about the attacking duo of Cecil Afrika and Rosko Specman. The pair signed with the Cheetahs on short term deals ahead of the Currie Cup season and will provide the Cheetahs with further depth on attack with the likes of Raymond Rhule on international duty and potentially joining the Stormers.
Torsten van Jaarsveld
Van Jaarsveld is likely, if fit, to lead the Cheetahs in the absence of the Venter. The energic Namibian international is an exceptional set piece specialist and equally good with the ball in hand on attack.
Mapimpi impressed in his debut Super Rugby season with the Kings, this year, scoring 11 tries in his 14 appearances. Since joining the Cheetahs he has scored 6 tries in 5 appearances in the Currie Cup.