Free State Cheetahs

The Free State Cheetahs (formerly the Orange Free State), currently named the Toyota Free State Cheetahs, for sponsorship reasons, are a South African rugby union team that participates in the annual Currie Cup tournament. They are governed by the Free State Rugby Union and are based at the 48,000 capacity Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein. The Cheetahs have won the Currie Cup six times, with five of the wins coming since 2005, including winning the cup three times consecutively from 2005 to 2007. Since the advent of professionalism in rugby union, they have been considered one of South Africa's "Big 5" provincial rugby Unions.

Free State Cheetahs
Free State Cheetahs logo.svg
Full nameFree State Cheetahs
UnionFree State Rugby Union
Founded1895; 125 years ago
RegionFree State, South Africa
Ground(s)Free State Stadium (Capacity: 48,000)
Coach(es)Hawies Fourie
Captain(s)Ruan Pienaar
League(s)Currie Cup
1st on log
1st kit
2nd kit
Official website
Rugby football current event.svg Current season

The Cheetahs are a very well supported team across the Free State as well having large fan bases in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Pretoria.[citation needed] They are also known as the darlings of South African rugby, with many other South African rugby fans adopting them as their second team especially when they take on any of the other "Big 5" teams.[citation needed] The Cheetahs average home crowds of approximately 17,000 in the Currie Cup when they play at Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein.[citation needed] Their biggest rivals are traditionally Western Province. However, in recent times the Blue Bulls have also become fierce rivals of the Cheetahs.[citation needed]


The Orange Free State Rugby Union was established in 1895, but did not make it to their first Currie Cup final appearance until 1973, when they lost to Northern Transvaal 30-22 at Loftus Versfeld. Just two seasons later, the Orange Free State met Northern Transvaal again in the Currie Cup final, losing 12-6 at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein. The following season, Orange Free State met the Western Province in the final, defeating them 33-16 in Bloemfontein, claiming their first Currie Cup championship. The next season, Orange Free State met Northern Transvaal in the Currie Cup final again, though Northern Transvaal defeated them 27-12 in Pretoria. For the fourth successive time, Orange Free State were in the final again, and again with Northern Transvaal, who defeated them 13-9.

They met Northern Transvaal in the 1981 season final. Northern Transvaal won 23-16. The Orange Free State/Free State Cheetahs made two final appearances in the 1990s, being runners-up to Transvaal and the Western Province in 1994 and 1997 respectively. In 2004, they were runners-up to the Blue Bulls in the final. However, the following season, the Free State defeated them in the final, 29 points to 25. The Free State finished at the top of the table of the 2006 season, and defeated the Sharks in their home semi to advance to their third final in as many years. The Cheetahs hosted the final, which ended in a 28-all draw after 20 minutes of extra-time.

In the 2007 season, the FS Cheetahs continued their great form, winning 13 of the 14 games before the finals. After beating the Blue Bulls in the semis at home, they won the Currie Cup for a third consecutive time by coming from behind to beat the Golden Lions by 20-18 in the final.

In the 2016 season, they emerged undefeated in the Currie Cup, and beat the Blue Bulls in the final 36 - 16.

Other teamsEdit

In addition to the Free State Cheetahs that play in the Currie Cup competition, a Free State XV also compete in the Vodacom Cup / Currie Cup qualification series on an annual basis. This team play their matches at the same time as the Super Rugby season, with the majority of Free State Cheetahs first team squad in action for the Cheetahs Super Rugby franchise. While the Free State XV's matches are classified as first class matches by the South African Rugby Union, they are not included in the Free State Rugby Union for their annual capping ceremony.

In previous seasons, an Emerging Cheetahs team also participated in first class compulsory friendly matches prior to the Currie Cup season.

Currie Cup finalsEdit

Season Winners Score Runner-up Venue
1973 Northern Transvaal 30 - 22 Orange Free State Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
1975 Northern Transvaal 12 - 6 Orange Free State Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
1976 Orange Free State 33 - 16 Western Province Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
1977 Northern Transvaal 27 - 12 Orange Free State Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
1978 Northern Transvaal 13 - 9 Orange Free State Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
1981 Northern Transvaal 23 - 6 Orange Free State Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
1994 Transvaal1 56 - 35 Orange Free State Springbok Park, Bloemfontein
1997 Western Province 14 - 12 Free State Cheetahs2 Newlands, Cape Town
2004 Blue Bulls3 42 - 33 Free State Cheetahs Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
2005 Free State Cheetahs 29 - 25 Blue Bulls Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
2006 Free State Cheetahs 28 - 284 Blue Bulls Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
2007 Free State Cheetahs 20 - 18 Golden Lions1 Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
2009 Blue Bulls 36 - 24 Free State Cheetahs Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
2016 Free State Cheetahs 36 - 16 Blue Bulls Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
2019 Free State Cheetahs 31 - 28 Golden Lions Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein

1 Transvaal are now known as the Golden Lions.
2 Orange Free State were renamed the Free State Cheetahs.
3 Northern Transvaal were renamed the Blue Bulls.
4 Game was a draw after 80+20minutes, thus the cup was shared.

Vodacom Cup finalsEdit

Season Winners Score Runner-up Venue
2000 Free State 44 - 24 Griquas Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein
2008 Blue Bulls 25 - 21 Free State Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
2010 Blue Bulls 31 - 29 Free State Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria

Bankfin Nite Series finalsEdit

Season Winners Score Runner-up Venue
1996 Free State 46 - 34 Border Bloemfontein

Current squadEdit

The following players were included in the Free State Cheetahs squad for the 2022 Currie Cup Premier Division:[1]

Free State Cheetahs Currie Cup squad




Loose Forwards






(cc) Denotes team co-captains and Bold denotes internationally capped.


Name Year
Boetie McHardy 1912
Hennie Potgieter 1928
Tiny Francis 1931/32
Jack Gage 1933
Lappies Hattingh 1933
Flip Geel 1949
Piet Wessels 1951/52
Basie Vivier 1956
Harry Walker 1953
Popeye Strydom 1955
Chris de Wilzem 1956
Bennie van Niekerk 1960/61
Gert Cilliers 1963
Nelie Smith 1963
John Wessels 1965
Piet Goosen 1965
Sakkie van Zyl 1965
Louis Slabber 1965
Piet Greyling 1967
Joggie Jansen 1970
Jackie Snyman 1974
Gerrie Germishuys 1974
Leon Vogel 1974
Jan Schlebusch 1974
Johan de Bruyn 1974
Gerrie Sonnekus 1974
Kleintjie Grobler 1974
Rampie Stander 1974
André Bestbier 1974
Edrich Krantz 1976
De Wet Ras 1976
Theuns Stofberg 1976
Hermanus Potgieter 1977
Dirk Froneman 1977
Barry Wolmarans 1977
Martiens le Roux 1980
Gysie Pienaar 1980
Eben Jansen 1981
Rudi Visagie 1984
Jaco Reinach 1986
Christo Ferreira 1986
Helgard Müller 1986
André Joubert 1989
Johan Styger 1992
Ruben Kruger 1993
Hentie Martens 1993
Naka Drotské 1993
Ollie le Roux 1994
Brendan Venter 1994
Chris Badenhorst 1994
Os du Randt 1994
André Venter 1996
Werner Swanepoel 1997
Rassie Erasmus 1997
Jannie de Beer 1997
Braam Els 1997
Willie Meyer 1997
Hendro Scholtz 2002
Friedrich Lombard 2002
CJ van der Linde 2002
Juan Smith 2003
Gerrie Britz 2004
Hanyani Shimange 2004
Michael Claassens 2004
Gurthro Steenkamp 2004
Meyer Bosman 2005
Bevin Fortuin 2006
Kabamba Floors 2006
Jannie du Plessis 2007
Barend Pieterse 2007
Adriaan Strauss 2008
Jongi Nokwe 2008
Heinrich Brüssow 2008
Wian du Preez 2009
Coenie Oosthuizen 2010
Ashley Johnson 2010
Johan Goosen 2012
Raymond Rhule 2012
Trevor Nyakane 2013
Piet van Zyl 2013
Cornal Hendricks 2014
Lood de Jager 2014
Oupa Mohoje 2014
Francois Venter 2016
Uzair Cassiem 2016
Ox Nche 2018
Rosko Specman 2021


  1. ^ "Currie Cup Players". Free State Cheetahs. Retrieved 12 January 2022.

External linksEdit