The strength-versus-strength format is what Currie Cup rugby should be
The decision to revert to the strength-versus-strength format will boost the sustainability and authenticity of the Currie Cup this season, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.
The opening round of the ‘new’ six-team Currie Cup Premier Division is in the book and how refreshing it was to see the oldest rugby competition in the world return to its glory days with three intriguing games kicking off the 2012 season.
The strength-versus-strength format is what Currie Cup rugby should be - the six top unions in the country battling it out for the crown jewel of South African rugby. No squash matches, no formalities, simply exciting, competitive matches week in, week out.
I have fond memories watching Uli Schmidt help Transvaal capture the Sir Donald Currie Cup; speedsters like Cobus van der Westhuizen, Deon Oosthuizen and Chris Badenhorst score scorching tries and future legends Os du Randt, John Smit, Victor Matfield and Fourie du Preez make a name for themselves in the Currie Cup.
Granted, with the country’s leading players on Springbok duty, the ‘old lady’ of South African rugby has lost her greatest drawing card. This was evident at the weekend with three scarce crowds making the effort to watch the action live, although the inclement Cape Town weather played a major part in the low attendance for the main game between Western Province and the Sharks.
However, it remains the ultimate stage for up-and-coming stars to announce themselves to the rugby-mad South African audience. It’s unfortunate that the lack of big-name players and the ever-increasing length of the Super Rugby season mean only die-hard supporters witness the emergence of the next generation of stars, with the casual fan having little interest in what they consider to be a watered-down version of the South African Super Rugby Conference.
A week into the 2012 campaign and already Jan Serfontein and Raymond Rhule, two key players in the IRB Junior World Championship-winning South African Under-20 side, have made their Currie Cup debuts.
The talented duo will only further develop their skills this season and enhance their reputations while lesser-known players will come through the ranks in a similar manner Marcell Coetzee and Siya Kolisi, both included in the Springbok Rugby Championship squad, did in last year’s Currie Cup.
Its role may have changed since the advent of Super Rugby, but the Currie Cup remains an integral part of South African rugby that should forever be treasured.