The Currie Cup was shortened to a single round competition last year and, on the eve of the 2019 edition, the AOR team debates whether the change has been a good one.
Tank Lanning says – GOOD
As an out and out exporter of talent, for both rugby and socio-economic reasons, and having written far too many cheques that cannot be honoured, any talk of expansion – and thus further dilution of the product – should be reserved for those eating dry bread in a padded cell.
The only reason all 14 unions do exist, is because of the bail out money from SA Rugby, so I am chuffed we have moved on from that debate to one around a single or double round! Now we just need to persuade those that are not in the top flight to accept that they are amateur, and exist only on that level.
The fact that EP cannot qualify for the Currie Cup not only muddies the waters, but speaks to how political wrangling makes any call complicated in SA, no matter how simple it looks from the outside!
The Currie Cup is our premier domestic competition, and needs to remain exactly that. Despite the hammering it has taken as we have chased Super Rugby cash. Having now hopefully learnt from diluting it because we felt bad for a few unions that thrived in an amateur era, we now must think carefully about dilution via a double round.
Development is for the SuperSport Challenge and club rugby. The Currie Cup must be about excellence. That means it cannot overlap with Super Rugby, and needs to finish in time for the players to have a proper off season.
So I would add EP to make it 8 sides, and keep it to a single round. Those not in the 23 can go and play club rugby, with the big club game of the weekend being a curtain raiser to the local Currie Cup game. One that doesn’t end an hour before the Currie Cup game starts!
Zelim Nel says – BAD
I’ve got this completely wrong if the Currie Cup is supposed to be a placeholder competition aimed at providing broadcasters with rugby content to complement the Rugby Championship between the end of Super Rugby and the beginning of the Boks’ perennial November tour to Europe.
But the single-round competition is not constructive if its purpose is to showcase South Africa’s domestic heavyweights or to nurture burgeoning talent for eventual promotion to the Super Rugby echelon.
A single-round competition is inherently imbalanced – it’s possible for a team to fall out of contention because they are drawn to host the weakest teams and play the eventual finalists on the road.
Taking inventory of potential Super Rugby assets is also made more challenging by a shorter schedule, which means each match has a significant bearing on the race to reach the playoffs and book a home semi-final and final.
For example, after making one start at flyhalf for the Sharks during the 2018 Currie Cup, Curwin Bosch this year earned nationwide respect in five consecutive Super Rugby starts at 10. However, he spent the first half of the season riding the bench or starting at fullback and, while it’s easy to put this all down to the unique coaching situation in Durban with Robert du Preez, it’s reasonable to suggest that the Sharks may have reached this point earlier in their selection process with Bosch had the 2018 Currie Cup run a 12-match league phase.
The Currie Cup was an eight-team, double-round competition in 2006 when Dick Muir peppered his lineups with promising youngsters. Frans Steyn was given a run at flyhalf and fullback in 10 appearances, went on to make 14 starts for the Sharks in Super Rugby the following season and then helped South Africa win the 2007 Rugby World Cup.
It’s possible that Steyn may only have appeared on the Bok radar much later had his Currie Cup opportunity been denied by a shortened, must-win format.
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