Brenden Nel - SuperSport
Johannesburg - The Absa Currie Cup remains the top priority for the South African Rugby Union and it will never be allowed to be “watered-down” by any other competition.
This is the message from the chairperson of SARU’s Executive Committee, Dr Jan Marais, who also rejected claims in some quarters that SARU was killing off the Currie Cup in a deal that only favoured Australia.
Marais said that despite the impressive financial deal that was done with Newscorp, Currie Cup rugby - the oldest domestic competition in world rugby – remained the crown jewel for South African rugby.
“For those people who think it is all about money, if you compare what we receive from SANZAR to the income from the television rights for the Currie Cup, the Currie Cup brings in 87.5% in comparison to the SANZAR money. The Currie Cup is always a priority because the SANZAR money is for Super rugby and the Tri-Nations,” Dr Marais said.
“The season has been extended for the Super 15 from next year, but we will still have a top class Currie Cup on the go.
Traditionally the Currie Cup has been played while the Tri-Nations is on and the Boks have returned later. This won’t change under the new format.”
Dr Marais went further to explain that the Super 15 would benefit South African rugby because of the increased local derbies.
“In terms of viewership and attendance figures, we have traditionally had more fans at the derbies than at games against overseas teams. The fact that we now have a double round of these are good for the game as a whole,” Dr Marais explained.
“Taking it further, we will be playing our rugby in South Africa most of the time and teams will only have to go overseas for four weeks. That is also better as it is less than the teams travelled in this year’s Super 14 competition.”
While the Currie Cup would still remain the premier competition in SA rugby, the format might change.
“We are looking at a few possibilities at the moment, and these will have to be debated by the unions themselves as to what the best would be for the competition.”
While it may see that Australia are the real winners in this deal, by expanding their player base and extending their season perfectly as they have no domestic season to compete with, Dr Marais rejected this as well.
“The deal will benefit all of us. We get the same share of the money as the other two partners and our players get top class competition. The benefits are the same for all three partners.”