Should Boks be chosen on Currie Cup form?

Keba Mothoagae

Does form in the Currie Cup count for anything, anymore? This is a question rugby fans should be asking after the domestic competition has concluded and the Bok squad to tour Europe has been named.

As far as I am concerned, the Currie Cup is currently a mix of promising future stars in development, club-level journeymen and a sprinkling of average Super Rugby players, and Bok squad members, who need to maintain match fitness or get a hit-out to regain form.

You can pick this up just by observing the big swing between brilliant and rubbish passages of play in every Currie Cup match, inconsistency in its purest form. There is an easy, well-documented explanation for this: the player exodus to the northern hemisphere.

If you look at the current Bok squad members that featured extensively in the Currie Cup, the standouts are Wilco Louw, Dan Du Preez and Warrick Gelant. Other than that, the squad is consistent with the selections that were made to face France in June as well as the Rugby Championship – groups that were chosen mainly on Super Rugby form and continuity.

As much as I might scoff at the Currie Cup, Louw’s chassis-crunching scrummaging, Du Preez’s steely industrial play and Gelant’s magic with ball-in-hand could not be ignored.

I am curious about how the latter will handle being thoroughly tested by the Europeans’ highly-tactical approach intended to exploit the opposing back three’s decision-making frailties.

A player like Francois Venter impressed in the PRO14, a tournament significantly higher in quality than our Currie Cup. How Super Rugby and PRO14 breakout player Makazole Mapimpi was left out remains a complete mystery…

But back to my point – when a player produces a run of impressive performances in the Currie Cup, a section of the rugby public typically clamours for him to be called up for the European tour. A decade ago this would have been justifiable, considering the class of player we had in the domestic competition, but this is no longer the case.

The Currie Cup has lost far too many world-class players who, by weekly barometer, would have been on the periphery of previous Bok squads.

Back then, you had players like Frans Steyn, Luke Watson, Pierre Spies, Morne Steyn, JP Pietersen and the late Etienne Botha trying to smash the door down into Jake White’s team. You can’t say that Allister Coetzee has the same quality of stock to choose from in 2017.

If a player was to get injured in the build-up to the Test against Ireland next Saturday, common sense would implore Coetzee to select a South African player based in Europe. The line would be “because of his knowledge of European conditions” but, subconsciously, it would be because the majority of our Test-standard options are in the north.

The point here is that the Currie Cup of late tends to make players look better than they really are. Think about how many players in recent years have not been able to carry this form into Super Rugby, let alone an outbound tour in November.

My beloved Western Province won the famous trophy, but my joy only comes from being able to troll Sharks fans for the next while, something no Province fan should miss the opportunity to do.

The prestige of the tournament has been reduced to nothing more than its historical significance, and one cannot shake off the “meh” attitude of many fans towards it after it wraps up, even among the victors.

Follow Keba on Twitter @Keba_MC

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- Keba Mothoagae

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  • Arch Rautenbach

    Well you brought it up, so let’s discuss it. You said that the Pro 14 is ” a tournament significantly higher in quality than our Currie Cup.” But when the Cheetahs, who are doing pretty good in the Pro 14, brought their best team to Ellis park for the last round robbin game against the Lions, they got totally out played by the Lions. And it was a must win for the Cheetahs. So I have no idea where you are basing that logic at. To be able to state “facts” like that, the pro 14 being significantly higher than Currie Cup, you will first need some proof. If the Cheetahs win their next game against Connacht, they would have won more matches in the Pro 14 already than they did the entire Super Rugby. So I can’t really see that the Pro 14 is so superior to the Currie Cup. Just because its an international competition doesn’t make it superior. Have you checked the Metre 10 matches? Not international, but intense.

    • Mike S

      It is Mitre 10. Yes, when the Lions had their Boks back, they were a different prospect and they beat the Cheetahs comfortably. The Cheetahs are lying third in the seemingly slightly weaker section of the Pro 14, but they have only won one game away from Bloem to date. To Zebre, who are perennial bottom feeders in the compettition (One of their other three wins were also to Zebre at home).. Teams like Glasgow, Munster, Ulster, Leinster, and Scarlets are awash with current international players. Yes, sadly, the Pro 14 standard is higher than that of our Currie cup. Accept it. Without the Springboks and the veterans playing overseas, you have bunch of club players, with a few promising youngsters making up the competition. Remember our expectations in the Championship. We ended third. Again. It is simple. Our provincial and Super rugby sides are simply not good enough and too few really good players are coming through to the Springboks. Only one of the recent debutantes can be described as a possible “world best in his position”: Malcolm Marx. But even he is not consistently good. The rest do not even compare well to the fairly average players they replaced, some of whom were decidedly long in the tooth.

  • Mike

    I like your sense humor. Trolling Sharks fans can nice but remember WP is also known as craven week chockers.
    Anyway on a serious note, I think we cannot pick Bok players base purely on Currie Cup form but if a player constantly performs in both Currie Cup and Super Rugby or only Super Rugby then he must be given a chance.

    • Mike S

      You have obviously not followed the Craven Week lately. Province was the top team in 2013, 2015 and 2016. Do you want the results for U19 and U21 for the last decade as well?

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