Johannesburg - South African rugby is at risk of destroying its production line if it continues to water down the Currie Cup competition, Western Province coach John Dobson has warned.
It is true that Currie Cup attendance figures wane in a Rugby World Cup year, but Dobson is concerned about this year’s turnout following Saturday’s final at Ellis Park.
The final attracted 45 000 spectators which was not half bad considering the Springboks were to take on the All Blacks in their World Cup semi-final in London an hour after the match.
“This is probably the poorest attended Currie Cup final I can remember and I appreciate that South Africa are playing the All Blacks this evening,” Dobson said on Saturday,
“But South African rugby needs to look very carefully with what we are doing to the Currie Cup, because it is a unique selling prospect.
“With so many of the guys playing overseas these guys go so quickly from Currie Cup to Super Rugby to Springbok rugby.”
One of the issues in recent years has been the fact that the country’s Springbok players have missed out on Currie Cup action due to the international schedule clashing with the domestic tournament.
Although next year’s Currie Cup format has not been finalised, the possibility is that it will clash with the expanded Super Rugby competition.
The result would be that the country’s top rugby players will take little or no part in the Currie Cup which has been the life-blood of South African rugby for more than a century.
The attitude from South African franchises in recent years has been to use the Currie Cup merely as a stepping stone to Super Rugby.
Next year’s Currie Cup is reportedly set to be expanded to 18 teams with African nations like Namibia, Zimbabwe and Kenya included.
The Vodacom Cup could fall away and make way for a Currie Cup qualifying tournament which will take place during Super Rugby.
“If we are going to keep on watering down the Currie Cup we are literally destroying our kindergarten, our rugby production line,” Dobson said.
“I feel incredibly strongly about this and not because I am coaching but we need to look after the Currie Cup.”
Dobson was also critical of the format for next year’s Super Rugby competition which is viewed as being complicated and will see some South African teams completely miss matches against New Zealand or Australian franchises.
“We can invite some professor from MIT or Stanford and he can try and work out next year’s Super Rugby format and let us know,” he said.
“No competition should be judged on teams not playing each other, we must look after our Currie Cup and at the moment we are in danger of watering it down.”