The All Out Rugby team debates whether, with a congested rugby calendar and waning interest in the Currie Cup, it’s time to dump the playoffs and hand the trophy to the league winners.
Tank Lanning – Yes
After 14 rounds of the 2017 edition of the Currie Cup, all we have done is eliminate the bottom three sides! Over three months of rugby to work out that the Griquas, Pumas and PRO14 leftovers are Currie Cup clip-ons!
This in an era when its palpably obvious that too much rugby – and ordinary watered-down rugby at that – is being dished up to an audience getting wiser in how it utilises their entertainment Rand. It’s no wonder the SuperSport crew forgot to pitch at one of the games, and that their crew outnumber the actual crowd at some games.
The once great Currie Cup is now a tournament fraught with all sorts of issues, with the playoffs just being another.
Both semi-finals this weekend look mouth-watering, but is it really fair to ask the Sharks – 10 log points clear of second-placed Western Province after the league games, and quite clearly the best side on show – to now switch into playoff mode in order to take home the trophy?
More pertinently, do the Bulls – who have won only five games this year for an abysmal win rate of just 42% – really deserve to be in contention for the trophy? Are we not just rewarding mediocrity?
The fact that the non-contracted Boks now join the tournament, while fantastic for the fans, further taints the playoffs as teams are not affected equally.
Semi-finals and finals are fun, and draw big gates, but as seen last weekend when six sides were scrambling for three semi-final spots, the finishing weekends to a log-points champion can be just as exciting.
A tournament based on log points rewards the best side over the course of a season, and makes every single game count.
Zelím says – No
These days, the only time the Currie Cup registers a pulse is after the four Super Rugby provinces are the last teams standing.
The player exodus has downgraded a once-renowned domestic championship into something that plays more like a club game than a Test match. Having said that, it is the only competition available to local players who don’t turn Japanese after Super Rugby, and a host of entitled rugby academy graduates who recently added the term “professional rugby player” to their online profiles.
The greenhorns are not all chaff; there are traces of South Africa’s traditional, abrasive edge that have yet to be detected by French investigators.
The commercial value of running a playoffs format at the conclusion of the league phase includes the likelihood of a season-high crowd at the stadium, publicity for the stakeholders and a positive sense of excitement about rugby that is in short supply during the first nine months of the year.
Another thing that is rare during that period is knockout rugby. When last did the Super Rugby playoffs feature more than one serious SA contender in the playoffs?
And that’s where the value lies in the Currie Cup champions having to survive a semi-final and final. The scattering of players with any sort of Test ceiling, together with a clutch of inexperienced coaches, need the growth that comes from running that gauntlet.
The All Blacks waited 24 years to win their second World Cup. One of the reasons identified for the drought was a lack of experience with knockout footy, and the Kiwis tweaked their domestic championships accordingly before claiming and retaining Bill in 2011 and 2015.
Without a Currie Cup post-season, it’s possible that a future Springbok coach and his players could find themselves puckering up for their first taste of playoff rugby in a World Cup quarter-final.
You’ve read what they think, now let us know where you stand in The Big Debate!