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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