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
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
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