Currie Cup to be streamlined?

2010-09-15 23:00

Stephen Nell

Cape Town – The new Super Rugby format does not mean the writing is on the wall for the Currie Cup, but it’s a given that it will undergo structural changes to become a more streamlined competition.

Dr Jan Marais, chairperson of the South African Rugby Union’s (SARU) executive council, confirmed to Sport24 on Wednesday that the format of the competition would have to be adapted so that it could run its course inside 12 weeks.

The current structure will continue into next year, but SARU’s competitions committee will shortly have to forward a proposal to its executive council about the competition structure from 2012 onwards.

It will then be sent to SARU’s general council for approval.

One of the possibilities is a strength versus strength competition, with South Africa’s top six unions set to play in a double round. However, the smaller unions may well oppose this idea.

“In a year where the World Cup is not played, Super Rugby ends in the first week of August. That means we have 10 weeks to fit in the league matches for the Currie Cup. We are losing four weeks’ competition time,” said Marais.

While some ideas have been put forward for a new structure, finality is yet to be reached.

“One option is to move from the current format of eight teams in the Premier League and six in the First Division. In that event there will be a double round between the six teams,” said Marais.

“Another option is to stick with 8-6 and play one-and-a-half rounds. In that case a team will play a single round of all seven teams and another half round in which the teams could be divided into two sections. The finer details would have to be worked out.”

SARU can also decide to stick to 8-6, with a double round against three teams and a single round against four teams.

The full rugby programme and vast amount of derbies in Super Rugby can pile the pressure on the Currie Cup, which is laced with tradition.

It is expected that the Super Rugby competition will expand in 2013 to include the Southern Kings. This may mean that South African teams start their programmes earlier in the year.

Argentina are expected to be included in an expanded Tri-Nations from 2012, but that is unlikely to mean more Tests for the Springboks.

Sport24 understands that South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina will play one another on a home and away basis, with the competition set to conclude in the first weekend of October.

The expected limited exposure of senior Springboks to the Currie Cup is not considered a problem by SARU.

“Victor Matfield played 14 Currie Cup games for the Blue Bulls in the last five years. The competition does not lose its gloss by Springboks not playing regularly,” said Marais.

He adds that the Currie Cup remains a huge priority for SARU.

“The income we get from the Currie Cup is equal to 87.5% of what we get from Super Rugby. It’s almost as important as the Super Rugby competition and the Tri-Nations put together,” said Marais.

SARU also have an agreement with SuperSport to broadcast 27 First Division matches from 2012. This will mean better exposure for smaller unions.

Meanwhile, the Vodacom Cup will be played as usual next year, but the format may also change in 2012. It may mean that an age limit is introduced in the competition.