Currie Cup

Currie Cup: Bok ‘ban’ to stick?

2014-10-03 15:30
Currie Cup (Gallo Images)

Cape Town – An old elephant is about to make its traditional October pilgrimage into the room.

The month traditionally signals the closing rounds of the Absa Currie Cup, including the semi-finals and (October 25) showpiece ... and simultaneously triggers speculation about which frontline Springboks will see service for their provinces.

Approached by Sport24 this week, SARU sources were unsurprisingly cagey about the 2014 situation at this point; indications are that the umbrella body will issue an update on their stance in the next few days.

But it is believed it may not differ markedly from the statement they made in early August: chief executive Jurie Roux said then that, following a request from the organisation to the provinces, contracted Boks (there are around 18 domestic-based ones) selected for the Castle Rugby Championship would not play any part in the Currie Cup.

“The Springboks are our first priority and the provinces have been very supportive.”

Intriguingly, though, his words weren’t absolutely watertight: “While it’s impossible to put a blanket ban across all contracted Springboks to play for their provinces, the players utilised in the (Championship) will be managed on an individual basis as the necessity arises ... most of them won’t play any part in the Currie Cup, though.”

There will also be some understandable cynicism among the domestic rugby public about suggestions that swathes of the country’s best Test players won’t see provincial service at the business end of the season; this has often been at least threatened before, only for provinces to jump at an eleventh-hour chance to re-infuse headline names for the Currie Cup run-in.

Last season, for instance, the Newlands final between Western Province and the eventually title-grabbing Sharks saw the visitors field all of Tendai Mtawarira, brothers Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis, Marcell Coetzee, Willem Alberts and Pat Lambie, whilst Province had the services of Eben Etzebeth, Jean de Villiers and Duane Vermeulen.

Availability of Springboks for the late, “glory” phase of the Currie Cup is always an emotion-charged, thorny subject.

On the one hand, it seems unfair on many players who have done hard yards during the round-robin period to suddenly be sidelined, but there is also the case for saying spectators, sponsors and television bosses ultimately want to see best possible players gracing the time-honoured but increasingly marginalised tournament whenever the opportunity arises. 

As things stand this year, it seems pretty close to certain that staple, often seriously overworked Boks – most of the names a few paragraphs above apply – won’t be involved in the knockout activity for a change.

That will improve the chances that senior, regular Boks this season will be able to refresh themselves, for a rare few weeks, ahead of the traditional end-of-year tour of the northern hemisphere, which starts against Six Nations champions Ireland in Dublin on November 8, even if certain players may be strategically rested from the venture anyway.

But don’t completely preclude the possibility that, in conjunction with Bok coach Heyneke Meyer, SARU do approve the filtering back of certain players if it is felt they are ring-rusty for whatever reason and could actually benefit from time on the park ahead of the European trek.

Not even that is cut and dried, however.

For example, someone like young WP utility back Damian de Allende, a peripheral Bok squad member in recent weeks of the Championship – his last game was the Test against Argentina in Salta on August 23, and before that he’d been sidelined by injury for a while – seems in obvious need of rugby.

But when questioned at a press briefing earlier this week on a possible return to the blue and white hoops for the player, WP coach Allister Coetzee reportedly said: “We know what the policy is so we’re not expecting him to be available (for any Currie Cup).

“It’s only when the Boks decide that a player needs game time, that they release players for provincial selection.”

This season, playing hard-ball over the premier Boks’ workload, with another World Cup now less than a year away, really does seem a determined drive ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    springboks  |  currie cup  |  cape town  |  rugby

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