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Ken Borland


Bulls’ decision loans some credibility to the Currie Cup

Posted on February 15, 2022 by Ken

The decision by the Bulls to field top players like Bismarck du Plessis, Marcell Coetzee, Morne Steyn, Harold Vorster and Lionel Mapoe in the Currie Cup loans some credibility to the competition, but truth be told, there can be little doubt that the famous old tournament is now on its last legs.

Of course it helps the Bulls that they have deep pockets thanks to the generous investment of their equity partners. But they should not be criticised for being professional and organised enough to attract those investments and also recognising the need to significantly improve the depth of their squad now that they are playing in two competitions at the same time.

The fact that they have been willing to field a number of players who will feature in Saturday’s URC derby against the Stormers shows that they, at least, are taking the Currie Cup seriously, unlike so many in South African rugby.

The Sharks are probably in an even better position financially, but they made a slow start to the Currie Cup by beating Griquas by just one point in Durban. But conditions – hot and humid and then raining – were definitely a levelling factor and the Sharks were not helped by having to play the final quarter with 14 men due to a red card. But even with all their riches – both in personnel and in finances – the Sharks only fielded one Springbok in 33-year-old prop Lourens Adriaanse.

The Bulls being 40-0 up against archrivals Western Province at Newlands and the Pumas putting fifty past the Lions at Ellis Park does little for the credibility of the Currie Cup.

Little wonder then that the public response has been muted. If SA Rugby is barely interested in the Currie Cup, why should spectators pay good money to support it? The Currie Cup, from being South African rugby’s second biggest brand after the Springboks, is now so devalued and the public are not going to be fooled by all the hype when there is little substance.

Some people do enjoy rugby more from the aesthetic of plenty of tries being scored and this mishmash Currie Cup will probably provide that. But even the Bulls are unlikely to use their top players in it once the United Rugby Championship gets into full swing.

SA Rugby find themselves with a problem because the URC hasn’t captured the public imagination yet like SuperRugby did in the early days. In that regard Covid has obviously not helped, neither have the poor performances of the South African franchises overseas.

But a disjointed, lopsided competition – Jake White made the point that Saturday’s game at Loftus Versfeld is the Bulls’ first at home in the URC, which started on September 24 – now also has its waters further muddied by the Currie Cup taking place at the same time.

I would call it an absolute howler by SA Rugby but there are some extenuating circumstances in their defence.

First of all, it is the provinces who have said they want a double-round of Currie Cup, which then becomes a challenge to fit into an already crowded calendar. Player workload concerns are also a factor, with URC starting in January and running through to June 18, after which there is the Test window.

But the last time a normal Currie Cup season was played in a double round, it began on June 18 and ended on September 11. I would still play the Currie Cup after the URC. Sure, the current Springboks would not play, but when last did they feature in a proper Currie Cup anyway?

At the moment, this most famous of domestic competitions has been reduced to Vodacom Cup status.

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