Town - The jury, it seems, is still out on the new, shortened Currie Cup
Seven teams, one round of
round-robin fixtures and then straight into semi-finals and the final: that is
the direction the 2018 edition of the tournament has taken.
There is no doubt that it makes
for some intense meetings that have a lot riding on them, but what is the overall
feeling on the new format?
Never one to hold back, Western
Province coach John Dobson provided some valuable insight following his side's
impressive 65-38 win over the Golden Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday.
WP have been superb so far in the
competition, winning all three of their fixtures with maximum points while they
have scored 21 tries along the way.
They are already at the half-way
stage of their season, and if they can get a win over a struggling Griquas side
this weekend, as is expected, then they will be one the verge of securing a
On the surface, things are going
well for Dobson and WP so far in 2018, but there are some concerns that come
with the new format.
"I find it frustrating for
two reasons," Dobson said in Johannesburg after Saturday's win.
"Firstly, you're under
pressure from the start and it could be, like with the Lions, after an off day
like today you may not get a home final. The same applies to us.
"In the old days it was nice,
and we could lose up here and say, 'don't worry, we'll get you in Cape Town'
and vice versa.
"It gives the competition
more integrity. To have a Currie Cup that is shorter than a Varsity Cup is a
The other concern, which Dobson
says impacts the bigger unions more, is the fact that fringe players have less
time on the field.
It might explain why SA Rugby
president Mark Alexander said at the launch of this year's PRO14 that the plan
moving into 2019 was to significantly reduce the number of professionally
contracted players in South African rugby.
"For us bigger unions it is
tricky. We've all got four or five scrumhalves and you have to win games from
the start, so how do I give Paul de Wet, Justin Phillips or Herschel Jantjies
enough time in six games where we can't afford to drop a game?" Dobson
"So Jano (Vermaak) is
starting every game.
"Before, you had a chance to
expose more players. Currie Cup had become a developmental competition, but I'm
not sure how much you can achieve in six games."
Like with everything, though,
there is a counter argument and Dobson acknowledges that interest in this
year's competition seems to have intensified.
"I would say, to its credit,
there is obviously an interest," he said.
"It's like a mosquito that
you can't kill, the Currie Cup. They keep trying to slap it down, but it keeps
buzzing. This is going to be a cracking end to the season."