Currie Cup – do people really care?

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 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?


  1. So what happens to the remaining 6 teams? Further marginalization? South Africa is the dominant Super Rugby union in terms of tv revenue and income but this money is only finding the 5 franchises, maybe 6? Players are shipping off to France at an alarming rate. The Currie Cup, a proud tournament with a rich history has become a 2nd tier tournament played in front of empty stadiums during the Rugby Championship… SA Rugby/Currie Cup would challenge the Top 14 in France, or at least be the southern hemisphere equivalent if SA Rugby bigwigs looked long term? How many unions are there in SA? Oh right, 14… But instead they are held back to prop up franchises in Australia who are up against League and AFL and have no domestic union trophy to play for… Just a thought but I think rugby in South Africa would be better served by focusing on it’s base at home, the Currie Cup and then some possibly Heineken Cup competition or the like, if the honchos in Europe can figure out that tourney… Cheers from Canada!

  2. Addendum. I spouted off my previous rant based on the story banner and I see I have echoed many of Tank’s concerns… I am passionate about this issue! I think while New Zealand has the edge in the amount of top class All Black depth they produce, South Africa is already close and can surely over take them in the coming years. We are talking about a population of 53 million in SA vs 4.5 million in New Zealand? This is contingent on tapping into all of SA’s population of course but I think that is happening… I just think South African rugby and for that matter, New Zealand rugby are held back so much by the Super Rugby model. Heck, how many “professional” rugby unions does New Zealand have? Oh right, 14… Same as South Africa, same as the French league that is taking everyone else’s players. Sorry to the Aussies, but they are the weak link here and I see the current Wallaby crisis as just the tip of the iceberg. How about 14 team South African and New Zealand competitions that restore Currie Cup and ITM Cup glory and build from the base and at home? Is Super Rugby so fantastic? I saw a pretty empty stadium in Bloemfontein to watch a wonderful Cheetahs side make their first playoff in years vs the Blues! Or that apathetic Canterbury turnout to see a recent 3X champion Bulls team in 2012? Some rivalry there! And then empty Currie Cup stadiums in SA too? Surely something is amiss… I think a SA 14, NZ 14 and Aus/Pacific Nations tourney with a Heineken Cup like 9 matches maximum that are “special” is the way to go.
    Nuff said from Canada…!

  3. The short version…? Currie Cup will never matter as long as Super Rugby is holding it back…
    really Nuff said now… 🙂

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