Chaotic Currie Cup scramble
NEWS: Just four days out from the start of South Africa's premier domestic competition, the Currie Cup, officials were still scrambling to finalise fixtures.
South African Rugby, the national controlling body and organisers of the competition, were dealing with two urgent requests on Monday.
The one is from the defending champion Lions, who asked to have their Round One encounter - with Griquas in Kimberley on Saturday, August 6 - postponed to a later date.
Rudolph Straeuli, the Chief Executive Officer of the Golden Lions Rugby Union, confirmed to rugby365 that he had forwarded a request to SA Rugby.
"Everybody is working very closely to see how this [request] can be accommodated," Straeuli said, adding that he is grateful for the assistance.
The Lions' request relates to the fact that their team will feature in the Super Rugby Final, where they play the Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday morning.
The team departed for New Zealand this past Sunday and they would have to field a severely depleted team in the opening round against a tough Griquas team in Kimberley - the graveyard of many big-name outfits in recent years.
The second, a more dramatic request, is from the Eastern Province Kings - asking that they withdraw from the competition altogether.
The EP Kings, set to be declared bankrupt in a court case scheduled to be heard this week, admitted they will not be able to field a competitive team.
They have lost the bulk of the players that featured in the Super Rugby competition and fielded a virtual junior (amateur) team in the Currie Cup qualifying competition.
Andy Colquhoun, GM: Corporate Affairs at SA Rugby, said in a statement that a decision had yet to be taken on the Kings' participation.
"The matter is in the hands of the liquidator," Colquhoun said.
The shock move by the EP Kings was first raised in the weekend media and later confirmed by SA Rugby.
The Kings are scheduled to have a bye in Round One, but combined with the Lions' request it caused quite a stir.
Should the Kings' request be granted, there are two options available to SA Rugby.
One is that the Currie Cup Premier Division be reduced to an eight-team competition.
The alternative is that the Leopards, who finished fourth - behind Griquas, the Pumas and Boland - in the Currie Cup qualifying competition could step up.
However, the Kings' withdrawal from the Currie Cup also puts in doubt their future participation in Super Rugby.
As it is, SA Rugby took control of the Southern Kings Super Rugby franchise this year and ran it as a separated entity from the Eastern Province Rugby Union (EP Kings).
Confirmed Currie Cup fixtures for this week:
Friday, August 5
Blue Bulls v Western Province - Pretoria (Kick-off: 17.10)
Pumas v Sharks - Nelspruit (Kick-off: 19.20)
Saturday, August 6
Boland v Free State Cheetahs - Wellington (14.00)
The Griquas v Golden Lions match, scheduled for 15.00 on Saturday, has yet to be confirmed.
By Jan de Koning