January deadline for Currie Cup call

Tue, 13 Dec 2016 09:23
Large pumas new players 2017 800

STRENGTH-VERSUS-STRENGTH: South Africa's premier domestic competition, the Currie Cup, will be a trimmer version of the 2016 monstrosity.

However, the format won't be finalised until the end of January.

Jurie Roux, the Chief Executive Officer of the South African Rugby Union, confirmed that a general council meeting decided to look at reducing the Premier Division from nine to seven teams.

The Currie Cup qualifying competition that was employed this past year and was little more than a glorified club competition, will be revamped into a completely different and "more exciting" competition.

However, one of the most significant decisions at last Friday's SARU meeting in Cape Town revolved around the Currie Cup competition itself.

"We were asked to look at the rescheduling of the Currie Cup into a seven-team [Currie Cup] and eight-team [First Division] competition instead of a nine-six [format]," Roux said.

"We will have that decision by the end of January," the SARU boss said, adding: "The eighth team in the First Division will still be Namibia."

While Roux was reluctant to elaborate on the reason for the delay, rugby365 believe it revolves around which teams will join the big five - Lions, Bulls, Sharks, Cheetahs and Western Province.

Griquas have the best credentials, having been consistently competitive in the Currie Cup for a number of years - on occasion even threatening to break into the play-off positions.

The two teams in the race for the seventh position are the Boland Cavaliers and the Pumas.

This has been the biggest cause of the delay.

Boland finished ahead of the Pumas this past year, but have since lost their entire coaching staff in a politically connected clean-out - which also resulted in the departure of a number of senior players.

In stark contrast the Pumas have gone on a massive recruitment drive.

Not only did some of those Boland players move to Nelspruit, but the highly-rated and successful Boland coach, Brent Janse van Rensburg, is now the Puma mentor.

Other significant recruits include former Cheetahs and Western Force flyhalf Sias Ebersohn, Marko Janse van Rensburg (Stellenbosch and Boland), former Boland captain Ryan Nell (the Cavaliers' Player of the Year for 2016), Tazz Fuzani, Karlo Aspeling (both from the Eastern Province Kings), Jacobus Marais (Blue Bulls), Luxolo Koza (Griquas) and Mark Pretorius (Golden Lions).

For those who wonder about the position of the Kings, the sixth of the South African Super Rugby franchises - they will play in the First Division.

Their Super Rugby team will again be managed by SARU, but the EP Kings - who failed to win a match in last year's Curie Cup - will have to rebuild from the ground up in the First Division.

The financial trouble - the union was officially liquidated earlier this year - means very few of the players recruited by SARU for Super Rugby, turn out for the Currie Cup team.

Because the union are unable to pay them, they usually head elsewhere and the EP Kings rely on their junior structures and club players - hence the decision to send them back to the First Division.

By Jan de Koning
@king365ed
@rugby365com

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Team P W D L Pts
Sharks 12 10 0 2 47
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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