Here's the 'Currie Cup lite'
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The South African Rugby Union has successfully managed to sabotage one of the most revered competitions in the world - the Currie Cup.
Steeped in history and tradition, the Currie which dates back to 1891 has been reduced to a shortened, single-round format with seven teams in the Premier Division.
As rugby365com reported on more than one occasion, the once proud competition has been reduced tio 'junk status'.
SARU confirmed the new 2018 format at a council meeting on Friday.
The 2018 season, which is even a smaller competition than the Varsity Cup, kicks off on Friday, August 17 and will conclude on Saturday, 27 October with the Currie Cup final, which will be preceded by the finals in SA Rugby’s Provincial Under-21 and Under-19 competitions.
The fixture list includes three Saturday triple-headers, while the action will be limited on the days of the Springboks’ local Tests in the Rugby Championship, against Argentina (August 18 in Durban), Australia (September 29 in Port Elizabeth) and the New Zealand (October 6 in Pretoria).
The seven teams that participated in the competition last season –Western Province, the Sharks, Golden Lions, Blue Bulls, Free State Cheetahs, Pumas and Griquas – will again battle it out for the coveted gold trophy.
According to SA Rugby CEO, the 2018 shortened version will draw in higher match attendances and higher average viewership.
"We regard the Currie Cup as the cornerstones of South African rugby, and we are looking forward to a single pool round, featuring strength-versus-strength encounters, in which every match is likely to have a direct bearing on playoff places – it’ll be edge of the seat stuff for the teams from tournament kick off to the end of October," said SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux.
"The provinces, who are our main stakeholders, through the Franchise Committee, made certain suggestions about the format of the Currie Cup and we listened.
"Statistics don’t lie and research from last year has shown that the Currie Cup remains a popular and critical part of the rugby landscape. Premier Division match attendances increased by 12.5 percent in 2017 and viewership reversed international sporting trends by jumping 20 percent year-on-year in terms of total unique viewers, and the average audience was up by 55 percent.
"We believe the reduced number of fixtures will lead to even higher match attendances and higher average viewership, which will ensure that the competition takes centre stage. It will also ensure that every game is critical to determining the eventual winner, as each match will be a compelling occasion among seven pretty evenly matched teams,"
Currie Cup fixtures
(all fixtures are subject to change):
Friday, August 17:
19.00: Free State Cheetahs v Blue Bulls (Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein)
Saturday, August 18:
14.05: Pumas v Griquas (Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit)
Friday, August 24:
19.00: Golden Lions v Griquas (Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg)
Saturday, August 25:
15.00: Sharks v Blue Bulls (Jonsson Kings Park, Durban)
17.15: Western Province v Free State Cheetahs (DHL Newlands, Cape Town)
Friday, August 31:
19.00: Pumas v Western Province (Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit)
Saturday, September 1:
15.00: Blue Bulls v Golden Lions (Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria)
17.15: Free State Cheetahs v Sharks (Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein)
Friday, September 7:
19.00: Sharks v Pumas (Jonsson Kings Park, Durban)
Saturday, September 8:
15.00: Griquas v Blue Bulls (Tafel Lager Park, Kimberley)
17.15: Golden Lions v Free State Cheetahs (Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg)
Saturday, September 15:
15.00: Golden Lions v Western Province (Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg)
17.15: Griquas v Free State Cheetahs (Tafel Lager Park, Kimberley)
19.30: Bulls v Pumas (Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria)
Saturday, September 22:
15.00: Free State Cheetahs v Pumas (Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein)
17.15: Sharks v Golden Lions (Jonsson Kings Park, Durban)
19.30: Western Province v Griquas (DHL Newlands, Cape Town)
Saturday, September 29:
14.00: Western Province v Sharks (DHL Newlands, Cape Town)
Friday, October 12:
19.00: Pumas v Golden Lions (Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit)
Saturday, October 13:
15.00: Griquas v Sharks (Tafel Lager Park, Kimberley)
17.15: Blue Bulls v Western Province (Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria)
Saturday, October 20: Semi-finals
Saturday, October 27: Final