Does the Currie Cup still matter?

Fri, 07 Sep 2012 14:30
Large currie cup trophy 630 Large currie cup trophy fans 630 Large currie cup trophy fans2 630 Large currie cup trophy fans3 630 Large cheetahs mascot with currie Large mufasa currie 630

The Currie Cup is 120 years old this year, the oldest provincial competition in the world. Paul Dobson asks if interest in the Currie Cup is waning?

The Currie Cup is 120 years old this year, the oldest provincial rugby competition in the world, and it seems that interest in the Currie Cup is waning.

Last week the Blue Bulls came down from Pretoria to play Western Province at Newlands - Newlands which always gets big crowds. Not long ago it was a match sold out well in advance, tickets advertised in the press at exorbitant prices.

It was different last Saturday. It was a struggle to give tickets away, even those in prime positions on the Grand Stand, and in the end 13 649 people came to Newlands to watch.

Those who came were blessed with a magnificent game of rugby. In fact Currie Cup rugby this year has been exciting, creative, skilful - a better watch than Test rugby. But still the crowds were small.

That meagre crowd at Newlands was the second biggest Currie Cup crowd of the season so far, after the 14 329 who watched the Free State Cheetahs and the Blue Bulls in Bloemfontein. When the Sharks, who top the Currie Cup log, came for the previous match at Newlands there were just 6 279 spectators.

It's all so sad.

One wonders why a traditional competition such as this  with such exciting rugby should attract so few spectators.

1. It is true many of the stars are absent as the Springboks are playing as SANZAR gobbles up more and more of the season. But would you really rather see Jean de Villiers getting a pass a half than watching JP du Plessis running with the ball?

The answer seems to be Yes. We want to see the best players playing.

2. Is it true that there is just too much rugby - an extended Super Rugby season, a break for three Tests and this new four-team Championship with the Currie Cup squeezed in? Oh, and there's more to come - a tour overseas and then - alleluia - a month's break.

Again the answer is Yes. It is too much to keep the interest going and far too much for player bodies. No wonder, more and more players are picking up serious injuries.

Too much rugby certainly is an issue.

3. With the new SANZAR system of conferences the top sides play each other four times a season - twice in Super Rugby and then, with a weakened team, twice in the Currie Cup.

That, too, is overkill.

4. Kick-off times. This year the main match at Newlands will have kicked off 13 time at 19.00. There is no climatic reason for the games to kick off so late; in fact there are real climatic reasons for them to kick off earlier.

The other provinces are experiencing the same. At Kings Park the tradition of the car park is being destroyed.

The broadcaster - and TV owns rugby - wants the best broadcast times. He has no interest in empty seats in stadiums.

Last year Greg Peters, the CEO of SANZAR, was in South Africa. Asked if he were not concerned that his organisation was having an adverse (possibly fatal) effect on the Currie Cup he was clearly indifferent. After all Australia has no provincial competition and New Zealand's is comparatively young and watered down by the absence of the stars, for All Blacks are contracted, not to the provinces but to the NZRU who then can stop them playing.

It seems that to too many people, including some in South Africa, the Currie Cup doesn't matter.

Isn't that sad?

By Paul Dobson

There are currently no matches being played
FIXTURE GMT VENUE
Fri, 23 February 2018
Highlanders v Blues 06h35 Dunedin
Rebels v Reds 08h45 Melbourne
Munster v Glasgow Warriors 19h00 Irish Independent Park
Dragons v Edinburgh 19h30 Rodney Parade
Leinster v Kings 19h35 RDS
Scarlets v Ulster 19h35 Parc y Scarlets
France v Italy 20h00 Paris
Sat, 24 February 2018
Sunwolves v Brumbies 04h15 Tokyo
Crusaders v Chiefs 06h35 Christchurch
Waratahs v Stormers 08h45 Allianz Park
Treviso v Connacht 12h00 Stadio Monigo
Bath v Sale Sharks 12h30 Recreation Ground
Lions v Jaguares 13h05 Johannesburg
Exeter Chiefs v Northampton Saints 14h00 Sandy Park
Ireland v Wales 14h15 Aviva Stadium
Gloucester v Wasps 14h30 Kingsholm
Harlequins v Newcastle Falcons 15h00 Twickenham Stoop
Bulls v Hurricanes 15h15 Loftus Versfeld
Scotland v England 16h45 BT Murrayfield
Ospreys v Cheetahs 17h30 Liberty Stadium
Sun, 25 February 2018
Zebre v Cardiff Blues 13h00 Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi
London Irish v Worcester Warriors 13h00 Madejski Stadium
Saracens v Leicester Tigers 15h30 Allianz Park
CURRIE CUP
MORE LOGS
Team P W D L Pts
Sharks 12 10 0 2 47
Western Province 12 7 0 5 37
Golden Lions 12 6 0 6 35
Blue Bulls 12 5 0 7 32
Free State Cheetahs 12 6 0 6 31
Pumas 12 4 0 8 27
Griquas 12 4 0 8 26