Currie Cup: fun but scrappy

The ball in hand approach has made the Currie Cup fun to watch says Tank Lanning in his Sport24 column, but the lack of respect for the ball has also made it very scrappy.

Tank Lanning

If I have to read just one more Rugby World Cup preview piece, I might just vomit on my keyboard. Especially given that the four weeks of pool games is really all about which of Samoa or Scotland will get the last spot in the quarter finals. Sure some might say that Wales have a chance of upsetting either England or Australia, but I certainly would not be putting my lunch time sarmie, let alone house, on that happening.

Don’t get me wrong, I am most definitely looking forward to the showpiece. And in terms of being privileged enough to attend a few games, I actually prefer getting out to the lesser known venues for the pool games.

This time round especially, given that this time next week I will literally be on a rented bike cycling from Paris to Brighton to attend the Boks’ opening game against Japan. Hooking up with the intrepid Ron Rutland as he finishes his truly amazing Lettie’s Ride from Cape Town to Brighton, the #fatkidonabike has been raising both money and awareness for various charities. It promises to be a once in a lifetime, if bum bruising, adventure!

But hells bells, bring on some actual rugby so we can roll away from these pesky previews please. Instead, thus, a little gander at that grand old dame of South African rugby, the Currie Cup.

Like one of the nation’s favourite beers, the Currie Cup really has stood the test of time, no matter what the professional era has thrown at it. Whether it continues to do so from next year, in it’s new expanded format that will also include a few neighbouring African nations, with a new blue sponsor, and in a rugby calendar that excludes the Vodacom Cup, remains to be seen.

Ask anyone involved in club rugby in Cape Town what an expanded format has done to the Super A league. It has not been pretty. And sans the developmental Vodacom Cup, is that what the Currie Cup becomes? If you think the Cheetahs are poorly supported, dig up a Vodacom Cup game on your PVR and have a drink for every spectator you see. No rosy glow for you I am afraid!

To what we have seen this year, though. A ball in hand approach from most sides has made for some rugby that has been very soothing on the optics. Safe to say that we expected it from the Lions and WP, with the latter only getting it right sporadically to date. But to see it from the Bulls, with Francois Hougaard revelling in the new approach at scrumhalf, has been the revelation. Nollis Marais, take a bow. As such, enter the excitement machines Warrick Gelant, Jamba Ulengo and Travis Ismail. Throw in the form from Seabelo Senatla, Ruan Combrink and Rayno Benjamin and it is safe to say that the men out wide have really benefitted from the ball in hand approach.

In general though, the games have been very scrappy, with the breakdown in particular a horror show. Players at this level seem to have forgotten their respect for the ball, hence the enormous amount of turnovers. It’s as if the intention to attack with width has meant less commitment to the breakdown and thus a lack of accuracy. A balance between attacking intent and actually securing the ball in order to do so still needs to be found.

That the tournament is still played with 22 man squads is archaic and ridiculous. Who wants granny scrums and props playing out of position in the modern game? Get with the programme SARU!

The format is even more ridiculous, though. Seemingly based on last year’s log, teams play 3 of the other 7 teams on a home and away basis, and the other 4 teams just once. It’s not a level playing field. Perhaps it was done to prepare us for the complexities of Super Rugby next year?

One Comment

  1. I think we are going to see some upsets from the Northern Hemisphere teams at the WC this year.

    CC must agree it has somehow lost its oemf this year, the positive as you point out is that the ball in hand approach is being adopted by most of the unions. Sure it is going to take some time to get it right, but I will take it any day over “stamp kar” rugby. Like you said that back three of the Bulls very existing to watch at the moment.

    by the way GO LOINS GO LIONS!!!!!!!

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