Yes, there was a little fizz and pop on Twitter around the inclusion of EP and the Pumas in an expanded Currie Cup, but does it really matter and do people really care asks Tank Lanning in his eNCA.com column.
The rest of South Africa may be in a little bit of a tizz with regard to the expansion of the Currie Cup, but two people who will be sleeping a little easier given the call to include the Pumas and EP in an 8 team Currie Cup from next year are coaches Pote Human and Pine Pienaar.
This because the promotion-relegation talk can stop, giving the two teams that find themselves propping up the Currie Cup log at the moment, Griquas and the Blue Bulls, one less thing to worry about.
And while there might have been a bit of a fuss made about the call on Facebook and Twitter last week, does anyone really care? Judging by the crowd at Newlands on Friday night for the WP vs Griquas game, I would say not. Traditionally a province that has bucked the dwindling stadium crowd trend, and now backing a side that looks to be more than capable of defending their Currie Cup crown, not even Capetonians were up for watching their side eke out a win against the perennial Currie Cup bottom feeders from Kimberley.
The Currie Cup will liven up toward the end of next month as it always does toward the business end of the tournament when the Boks are back for the playoffs, but it is quite clearly a tournament in some distress as it struggles to find it’s place in a professional era. Not only does it face competition from the Rugby Championship Tests, but now also from the English Aviva premiership and French Top14, where sides like Saracens and Toulon, laden with big name South African, Kiwi and Aus players, regularly feature on our television screens.
She is the grand old dame of South African rugby though, and will not go out without a fight, though. While bums on seats seem to be missing in action, TV numbers were up for the revised strength vs strength tournaments of this and last year. But will it really matter if the Kings and Pumas are added to make it a single round instead of home and away double round?
I think not, and given that Super Rugby has fast become about the SA derbies between our “Big 5”, perhaps a little “Break from the old routine”, even if it means the Sharks hammering EP for the first few years, is not the worst thing in the world?
And yes, it is those poor buggers dressed in red and black from the Eastern Cape who are again being hammered in the comments on websites and social media. “Unfairly being given a leg up” say some, while others beat the Watson drum – again.
Me, I do not think they were half bad in Super Rugby this year, despite being given very little preparation time and a ridiculous single guaranteed year in the tournament, and are quite clearly one of the form sides in the Currie Cup 1st division. And with SARU willing to give up our participation in Super Rugby if the Kings are not included from 2015, it is palpably obvious that they now form a key part of the SA rugby landscape.
And so should they … We need to widen the talent net, not shrink it.
Of much more importance is what to do with the remaining 6 provinces in the 1st division? Are they not just taking up space and costing money? Could that money not be better spent on beefing up the club structures and keeping marquee players? Do we not just have too many professional players in South Africa?