Cape Town - Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE lessons learnt from this year’s Currie Cup competition.
1. Lions show Springboks the way
It was perhaps fitting that the team that had no players in the Springboks’ Rugby World Cup squad went on to win the Currie Cup.
Not only did a lot of the Lions' players stake a claim for higher honours, but the champions also showed the Boks what game style should be employed in the modern game.
Johan Ackermann’s charges dazzled with their enterprising, attacking approach and won the title on the same day the Springboks were undone by a team playing in a similar manner.
2. Bulls on right track
Meyer, the Bulls’ former coach, may still be intent to play the one-dimensional game which brought success for him in Pretoria almost a decade ago, but under Nollis Marais it seems the Bulls are on the right track.
Their season petered out a bit after a promising start but the Bulls’ ball-in-hand approach caught the eye of many a rugby enthusiast.
The way they dismantled WP in the league phase is a game which stands out, as promising stars of the future like Warrick Gelant and Jamba Ulengo came to the fore.
For the sake of South African rugby, it’s important that the Bulls take their new style forward into Super Rugby next year...
3. Defence remains vital in modern game
Defence is and will always remain a key element of rugby. At the current World Cup, the All Blacks and Wallabies have proved that you can play an attacking game while at the same time remaining resolute on defence.
Currie Cup finalists Western Province had an adequate season, but their defensive frailties were badly exposed at times.
It cost them in the final and also in round-robin defeats to the Bulls (47-29) and Golden Lions (62-32). WP’s defensive structures have deteriorated since Jacques Nienaber left to take up a job at SARU and it’s something Eddie Jones will have to resurrect when he arrives in the Mother City shortly.
The Free State Cheetahs also learnt the hard way that you can’t win games without a sound defensive systems...
4. Something not right at Sharks, Kings
After a disappointing Super Rugby campaign in which they finished 11th on the overall log, things took a turn for the worse for the Sharks.
They failed to reach the Currie Cup semi-finals, and their four victories came against the competition’s also-rans - the EP Kings (2), Pumas and Griquas.
The Sharks had a chance to sneak into the semis but blew a 34-20 lead with four minutes remaining in their final game against Free State in Bloemfontein.
Something is not right at the Sharks, and they have seemingly gone backwards since the arrival of Gary Gold.
The performance of the EP Kings should also be a worry for SARU.
The men from Port Elizabeth won only two matches to finish second from bottom on the overall log.
This is a team that will play Super Rugby next year and given their financial problems, with players and coaches not being paid throughout the season, they could be an embarrassment for South Africa in the southern hemisphere competition in 2016.
It was SARU’s wish to have the Kings in Super Rugby, so it’s time they step in and sort out the mess...
5. Currie Cup faces uncertain future
WP coach John Dobson had a point when he said the gradual watering down of the Currie Cup is threatening to ‘destroy South African rugby’s production line’.
Yes it was a World Cup year, but the popularity of the tournament appears to be dwindling year after year, especially as the Super Rugby season becomes longer.
Dobson said after his team’s loss to the Lions in the final: “This is probably the most poorly attended Currie Cup final that I can remember. I appreciate the Boks were playing the All Blacks on the same day, but South African rugby needs to look very carefully at what we are doing to the Currie Cup. It’s a unique selling prospect, and with so many guys playing overseas, these guys here are going so quickly from Currie Cup to Super Rugby to Springbok rugby. If we’re going to keep watering down the Currie Cup, we’re literally destroying our own rugby production line.”
He has a point, crowd attendances were poor during this year’s Currie Cup and with talk of next year’s event possibly being expanded to 18 teams, with African nations like Namibia, Zimbabwe and Kenya included, I fear for the future popularity of the tournament...