For all that is kind and merciful, kill the Currie Cup
It’s time to concede that the competition, for all its glorious history and tradition, is not the future
The Currie Cup will reach its climax in the coming fortnight and the once grand old tournament has largely gone unnoticed amid the Springboks’ upturn in the recent Rugby Championships.
The tournament was scaled back to a single round of matches in the ever-congested rugby calendar and it’s flown by faster than Sergeal Petersen chasing a cross-field kick.
There was hardly any time for teams to develop, or to recover from a poor start to the competition.
The Currie Cup circa 2018 didn’t allow coaches to really find out about their players and their style, or to build confidence and belief. It has been like modern dating where Tinder has eliminated the need for courting, wooing and pursuing in lieu of speed and convenience.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it requires a change of mindset from all stakeholders, which includes fans and unions. It needs understanding of what the competition has become and where it should be going, because it’s no longer the pinnacle of the local game.
Actually, the Currie Cup hasn’t been the pinnacle of the local game for a long time – possibly not even this century. But this season it has felt even more devalued than a Steinhoff share because of its brevity.
It’s time to concede that the Currie Cup, for all its glorious history and tradition, is not the future. In fact, it’s rapidly become a relic of the past and only careful management will sustain it – but perhaps not in the way some diehard fans want.
There was a cutthroat excitement to the 2018 format with teams fighting for semifinal places knowing that a run of two losses would put them in danger of missing out. The flip side is that it is a competition that gives participants a 57% chance of progressing to the playoffs, which is a seriously flawed system.
For all its foibles and pitfalls, there has been some sparkling rugby and from an entertainment perspective the Currie Cup has delivered, although the consistent quality of rugby is some way below Super Rugby.
That doesn’t mean it can’t be entertaining, just as under-18 rugby, while a long way off the standard of professional rugby, is still entertaining in its own way.
Western Province and the Sharks will host semifinals against the Blue Bulls and Golden Lions and barring some major upsets WP should win this year because they have been lapping the opposition.
If there was nothing better to offer, the Currie Cup should remain the backbone of provincial rugby in SA, but there is more to offer.
Super Rugby has its pitfalls but it’s a much tougher competition and broadens players’ understanding of what it takes to compete against the best in the world.
Similarly Pro 14 is potentially an even better option for SA teams and in likelihood it will become the premier club tournament for SA teams in the coming decade.
SA is set to include two more teams in Pro 14 from 2020 and they are not necessarily going to be Griquas and the Pumas. It might be the Bulls and Lions, or the Stormers and Sharks.
The Currie Cup is not a viable top end tournament anymore. It has been a development tournament for some time, but even that is in question because it demands that cash-strapped unions have even bigger player rosters to fulfil those obligations.
Super Rugby and Pro 14, as well as a crowded Test calendar, have filled the void the Currie Cup once filled and the only viable space left is that it becomes a semi-professional competition.
But this being SA, where the wheels of change in rugby turn at the pace of an ox wagon straining up the Du Toit’s Kloof pass, the Currie Cup is likely to wither into insignificance rather than being mercifully culled.