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Ashley Johnson hopes Cheetahs can reach Super Rugby compromise

Wasps forward Ashley Johnson hopes a solution will be reached to safeguard the future of the Cheetahs as SA Rugby weighs up which two of their Super Rugby franchises they will disband.

Three teams will be cut ahead of the 2018 Super Rugby tournament -- two from South Africa and one from Australia -- and the Cheetahs are in the firing line along with the Southern Kings. Although there are plans to place the two axed franchises into alternative tournaments, there is huge uncertainty at the Cheetahs.

Johnson, who won three Springboks caps, learned his trade at the Cheetahs and played for the franchise across a six-year period. He still keeps in touch with some of the backroom staff there, and empathises with everyone involved with the team.

"It's difficult to comment on anything back in South Africa as you're not there. But I can imagine being in the Cheetahs squad and having this hanging over their heads that they might be cut from Super Rugby," Johnson told ESPN.

"It's your work, there will be about 250 people there who might be out of work. It's nerve-wracking and putting yourself in that position, it's not a great position to be.

"You'd like to think there will be some compromise to work things out which is beneficial for Super Rugby, for SA Rugby and for the players involved. It's not nice knowing that next season you might be out of a job. It is something we love, but it's still a job where you have to look after your family. Hopefully there's a solution that's beneficial for the players."

Johnson joined Wasps in 2012, the season after they finished 11th in the top flight amid financial instability. Now they are one of Europe's deadliest sides and will line up in the Aviva Premiership final on Saturday, but he remembers the uncertainty of 2012 and says it can galvanise a team.

"I've been in a similar situation at Wasps and either your performances get worse, or you stick together," he said. "I've spoken to one of the coaches and the Cheetahs are like Wasps. Once you've played for them, you are always a Cheetah. They gave me my first opportunity and from there I got into the Springboks team.

"I wish them all the best and hope they find a situation. You want to be playing rugby and enjoying it, rather than worrying about the off the field things. The pressure, if you start losing, gets even worse but they'll stick together and hopefully they can get back to the top. They're a great team with a great coach.

"It will be a real shame for all the people from all around the Free State to lose out on Super Rugby. They have a great college there, one of the biggest schools in South Africa, and there are some great players who have come through from there."

Johnson will return to South Africa next week to visit friends and family and will also be keeping a close eye on the country's bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Like Bryan Habana, Johnson hopes they will be given the showpiece tournament.

"It would mean so much for the people and the economy," Johnson said of South Africa's World Cup bid. "We need something to unify us and hopefully that can make the country proud."