Some pluses in lean Currie Cup

2011-07-18 14:02

Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town – If evidence from the first round is anything to go by, this year’s Absa Currie Cup may carry some inadvertent blessings despite the all too obvious “watering down” of the domestic competition.

Early indications are that fewer mismatches will take place in this year of widespread Springbok absenteeism from it, plus the formidable counter-attraction for domestic rugby fans of the World Cup.

To use the expression “improved strength versus strength” would be inappropriate, given that the tournament is so obviously weakened by the heavier national demands of 2011 and a still swollen casualty list after the brutal Super Rugby campaign.

Indeed, I sometimes got the feeling over the past weekend that the Currie Cup this year will not be much higher in standard than a Vodacom Cup on mild steroids, if you like.

But it is not all gloom in a competition that has a funny old knack of defying doomsayers anyway: there is a fair prospect that only one of the smaller “platteland” unions -- rather than the traditional two among an eight-strong field -- will struggle to be properly competitive.

Although these are fledgling days in the programme, the ever-vulnerable Leopards look as though they will be wooden-spoonists once more – they conceded six tries in crashing 40-12 to a fairly rookie Cheetahs team in Bloemfontein which must be a bad sign.

But the Pumas may well turn this year’s event into something not far off a “seven-horse race”, which would make a nice change: they had some promising spells of supremacy before being squeezed out 31-27 away to the minimally-disrupted Lions, a team many consider could go all the way to a first final appearance since 2007.

The one major weakness of the Currie Cup in recent seasons has been the lamentable showing, for the most part, of the bottom two sides.

Last year the Leopards lost all 14 round-robin matches and secured a flimsy five points – a vast 18 adrift of the Pumas who, in turn, ended 14 points shy of sixth-placed finishers Griquas despite at least winning four fixtures.

In 2009 it was even more embarrassing, with “major union” the Lions ending sixth on 37 points, and a massive divide to the seventh-placed Leopards (six points) and relegated Cavaliers (five).

So a by-product of the Currie Cup’s dilution this year may well be at least one fewer easy-beat outfit.

As far as the traditional, Test-union giants are concerned, the Bok no-shows for generous chunks of the itinerary – perhaps even its entirety -- will have the effect of fast-tracking some bright young things who might otherwise have stayed in relative obscurity for the moment.

Some names that come to mind compellingly after round one include the Sharks’ constructive, gap-scenting 21-year-old scrumhalf Ross Cronje and a pair of exciting blindside flanks in Western Province’s Siya Kolisi and another Durban-based customer in Marcell Coetzee.

And although only 11 000 people went through the turnstiles at the traditional crowd magnet of Newlands -- on another unseasonally sparkling Cape Town day -- for the opening match of 2010 losing finalists WP against Griquas, Mr Price Kings Park was a tad better-stocked than I believed it would be for the Sharks v Bulls meeting.

Illuminatingly, the attendance seemed better to me, even if only based on television pictures, than for some matches at relatively advanced stages of the Sharks’ push into the Super Rugby finals series.

It may have been a significant little reminder that, warts and all in 2011, some people will always prefer their domestic rugby to a drawn-out Super Rugby campaign.

I have some ongoing fears for the 2011 version that one round of activity won’t be enough to repel but maybe, just maybe, the Currie Cup will turn out OK.

Er, again ...


  • docraven - 2011-07-18 14:13

    I have to be honest that i forget who the Sharks NO7 was on Saturday.Wow this boy has got talent.I could not even tell you how the Bulls loosies played as this youngster stole the limelight

      Bulldozer - 2011-07-18 14:16

      I bet you don't know who your father is as either.

      Bulldozer - 2011-07-18 14:25

      My nickname? docraven.

      SAFFA-CAT - 2011-07-18 14:26

      Marcell Coetzee......a bloody gem that kid. This 'diluted' Currie Cup is great for SA rugby. So many youngsters from each union coming to the fore, which will be great for the S15 squads next year (regardless of which union one supports) Lloyd - chin up old chap.

      Bulldozer - 2011-07-18 14:55

      My chin is always up, SAFFA. I find some consolation in the fact that the experience of every single match for a debutant or relative newcomer, means so much more than a match for an experienced player. If you compare the experience at fullback, center and flyhalf between the Blue Bulls and the Sharks, one must wonder how much the Sharks can still improve compared to the Blue Bulls and WP.

      gooinat - 2011-07-18 15:03

      Afternoon All,I see nothing has changed in my absence,the North and South love that is shown continues.The Sharks had a great game Saturday dont worry Lloyd Naas always says the Currie Cup is never won in May,hoe gaan dit met die kinders my maat???????

      Bulldozer - 2011-07-18 15:14

      Goed dankie gooinat, hulle mis maar net om hulle peetpa op TV te sien.

      gooinat - 2011-07-18 15:20

      Must be tough for them,one consolation he will be back next week for the AB's so the kids should be happy.I just hope meisiekind will also be happy to see him come charging at him.

      Bulldozer - 2011-07-18 15:34

      Whenever they feel sad I just show them highlights of him making Jean his bitch, time and again.

  • BokBru - 2011-07-18 14:26

    Only 11 000 people at the game. Looks like the administrators at Newlands are still in Super Rugby mode. Ticket prices are ridiculous. For the Bulls game prices are R95 main, R75 railway and R65 Danie Craven and Jan Pickard. You would think they would want to fill the stands but it's obvious they are not interested. They will continue to get small crowds and if WP start to lose they will be even smaller. Wake up people.

      John - 2011-07-18 14:55

      Common pal R75 for a railway stand ticket is not over the top!

      NickArmstron - 2011-07-19 10:15

      The Currie Cup will live forever! It's the true love of SA rugby - for players and fans alike - its history and tradition ensuring its love and 'survivability' from generation to generation... :) Stuff Super Rugby - it's made-for-TV, insignificant, rubbish! Who cares how many times the Stormers have beaten the Auckland Blues - what matters in SA domestic rugby - is the record, over 120 years, between our domestic Unions. In SA rugby - ALL that truly matters to the heart, the passion, is Test (Springbok) rugby, and Currie Cup rugby. And, yes, at schoolboy level - it's Craven Week, and a welcome new addition is the Varsity Cup. :) The rest is insignificant TV-fare - money-spinners and that's it...

      Kleinboet - 2011-07-19 22:05

      Could the unexpected lovely weather we are experiencing right in the middle of winter have influenced some people to go elsewhere and enjoy the sea and sun for a change?

  • Anneleen - 2011-07-18 14:26

    Surely, after this weekend's sizzling start, "watered down" does not apply anymore. Well done to the fans for "stocking up" the Shark Tank! Well done to all the teams for bringing us the CC 2011 excitement...expected and not-so-expected! SHARKS!!!

      NickArmstron - 2011-07-19 10:22

      Well said Anneleen! :)

  • jk - 2011-07-18 14:43

    every year we hear its gonna be a saai affere, and when the 2nd round comes everyone is in to it

  • John - 2011-07-18 14:51

    If Sharks / Bulls and WP / Griquas is anything to go by it should be most enjoyable. I really enjoyed watching the WP younsters throwing the ball around. Yes they butchered about 50 opportunities and gifted a few tries but they showed bigger things are yet to come. Hell it sure was better than watching the Stormers defend all S15.

      Bulldozer - 2011-07-18 15:00

      I have to agree. Even thought I detest everything WP rugby related, watching those youngsters was quite refreshing. With every Stormers game I'd rather watch the previous day's leftover spaghetti rotating in the microwave.

      jk - 2011-07-18 15:06

      some bulldozer fans can only afford left over spagetti...

      Bulldozer - 2011-07-18 15:18

      I'm not a Bulldozer fan. I AM Bulldozer. PS. Please show some respect and start my name with a capital letter.

      jk - 2011-07-18 15:34

      ok a buldozer, whats for dinner tonight?, left over tjops & braai broodjie...??

      Bulldozer - 2011-07-18 15:36

      Lekker gebraaide hoenderkuite, armadillo ooglede en gerasperde haaslong.

      jk - 2011-07-18 16:09

      so gedink a bulldozer, so gedink..

  • Slingervel - 2011-07-18 14:53

    Although the Lions didn't have a great start against the Pumas, they will be back on fire on Saturday against the Griquas. Come on John and Doppies - let's get the old Transvaal blood and guts cracking again!

      jk - 2011-07-18 15:03

      stop fooling youself slingervel, who you kidding, they poor mate, bottom line

      Kevin - 2011-07-18 15:17

      Hey Slingervel -I like your imagination but surely you must realize that you are dreaming

      Bulldozer - 2011-07-18 15:19

      Jk, please refrain from making racist remarks. It's uncalled for.

      jk - 2011-07-18 15:35

      a buldozer- keep your panties on, its madiba day, take a chill pill sarie

      Bulldozer - 2011-07-18 15:49

      Sorry mate.

      jk - 2011-07-18 16:04

      mooi bulldozer, nou verstaan ons mekaar...

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