The time has come to include both the Pumas and EP in an expanded 8 team Currie Cup, and cull the 1st division completely says Tank Lanning in his eNCA.com column this week.
It took ten weeks of rugby to decide which four teams out of a six team tournament will play in next weekend’s semi-finals!
And while the Bulls had a mathematical chance of sneaking into these semi-finals, the bottom line is that the top four were decided a long time ago, meaning we played ten weeks of rugby to decide where these semi-finals would be played.
Which is important to the 4 unions playing these games given the money at stake, but one can completely understand the lack of bums on seats, and relative apathy amongst the rugby public here in SA.
And that is for the Premier division! 1st division games would not come close to filling a school ground stand, let alone the entire ground, while the final was played out to cavernously empty Mbombela stadium last Friday night.
All research suggests that the current “Strength vs strength” format of the Currie Cup is the way to go, and I would agree, but the bottom line is that the Currie Cup, in it’s current guise, is merely a watered down version of the real deal we get in Super Rugby. And that is even though SANZAR are trying their best to stuff that one up as well …
In France they have 14 teams competing in their domestic competition, and after 9 rounds this year, only 11 points separates the top 3 teams (all on 27 points), and 13th placed team, with only Biarritz blowing out with 1 win from 9 games. In this year’s Currie Cup, top of the log Western Province have 11 more points than third on the log Cheetahs!
Sure they have the Euro, and are not shy to use it to stock their player resources with world class players from outside the country (Toulon is much more Baa Baa than French), and their playing resources (much like the general population) are more evenly spread over a much smaller country, but there is also one huge fundamental difference …
European Cup games are played in and amongst Top14 games, which plays itself out over the entire season, meaning that the same set of players play both Top14 and European Cup games for their respective clubs. It does make for a slightly complex season structure, but at least there is no watering down of their domestic tournament.
Here’s hoping that whatever changes are negotiated for the 2016 season by SANZAR include some thinking on a complete season restructure by SARU because what we have right now is not working.
In the interim, it would make sense to include both the Pumas and EP in an expanded 8 team Currie Cup, and cull the 1st division completely. The Pumas have earned the right and will give Griquas a run for their money in the promotion/relegation matches, while EP services an area of South Africa that we simply cannot leave out of the rugby landscape.
As said by Nick Mallet in a recent interview with SCRUM Magazine, SARU simply cannot afford to be wasting money on keeping the smaller unions afloat. That money could be better spent on keeping the top players in SA, while those affected by the cull could either move to one of the Currie Cup unions or continue to play amateur rugby in a revamped club structure.
But of course that would require our turkeys voting for Christmas given that every single one of the 14 unions has the same voting power – A ridiculous situation that will hamstring SARU and keep us in the gravy stained amateur era.
And on 30 September, the final vote at SARU’s special general meeting did not garner the required 75% majority vote for the change, with Boland, Border, SWD, Leopards and Valke allegedly voting against the 8 team Currie Cup. No surprise there, although good on the Griffons for seeing the bigger picture!
The big boys are grumpy, though, and have requested a new vote, which will happen in December. And while we will no doubt see the motion passed after some “Negotiating”, at what cost? What will the smaller unions be promised to make this little sacrifice. I can promise you that it will not be the culling of the 1st division!