VIDEO: Bulls bosses cry foul over 'devalued' Currie Cup
REACTION: Bulls coach Gert Smal said the Currie Cup should be put in a museum and some other trophy played for if decision-makers are going to continue devaluing the competition.
Smal – who won five Currie Cup titles as a player, two as a coach and two as a Director of Rugby – said the ‘sacred’ trophy is not being given the respect it deserves.
Speaking after Griquas knocked the defending-champion Bulls out of the 2022 Currie Cup competition with a 30-19 win at Loftus Versfeld on Friday, Small suggested the tournament is at risk of losing its prestige and stature.
Smal acknowledged that Griquas played ‘good rugby’ the entire season, but he did not mince his words when it came to the future of the competition.
He was supported by Blue Bulls Rugby Union President Willem Strauss, who also hinted that the tournament is being devalued.
“One can only wish that the Currie Cup finds a legitimate place in the rugby calendar in future,” Strauss said in the immediate aftermath of Friday’s loss, adding: “Such a proud and historic competition deserves [a special place].”
Smal, smarting after his team was knocked out by a fired-up Griquas outfit in their home fort, spoke of the ‘different challenges’ of trying to put a team together for a Friday game – after some players only arrived back home on Tuesday from a United Rugby Championship trip to Ireland.
He also touched on the fact that South Africa’s premier domestic competition is being ‘devalued’ by the top players being used for the URC and the Currie Cup team feeding off scraps.
“We are trying our very best to make the Currie Cup as prestigious as possible,” a bitterly disappointed Smal said.
“We are always trying to field a team that respects the Currie Cup,” he said, adding: “Whoever is making the calls in future, if it continues like this – we’re the only big union that progressed this far – if we devalue the Currie Cup and don’t play our best players, we must rather put the Currie Cup in a glass case or a museum.
“Just call it the ‘Vodacom Cup’ if that is the case.”
The Bulls coach said Griquas were able to produce the consistent performances they have this year because they were able to keep their team consistent and work together the whole season – unlike the Bulls team that was constantly losing players to the URC squad.
“They can build momentum and get that kind of rhythm,” he added.
“I don’t want to make excuses, it is the nature of the competition.
“We have players coming in and out all the time. It makes it difficult to get combinations together and win competitions.”
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Quizzed by @rugby365com about the ‘cinderella teams’ that have won the competition down the years, Smal – who started his senior playing career with Western Transvaal in Potchefstroom before joining the all-conquering Western Province team of the 1980s – said winning the competition should require ‘blood, sweat and tears’.
“If it gets devalued in a certain way, we have to relook at it,” he said, admitting that it is not a decision for him to make.
“You could see what happened to all the bigger provinces, the coach said, adding: “They don’t have enough depth to make a difference and win a Currie Cup.
“We tried to do it the best way we could.
“Otherwise they must organise a Cup [competition] for the Cheetahs, Griquas and the Pumas. Then they should let the other teams play a different competition.
“I don’t think the Currie Cup must be so devalued. I lot of players look up to it, and put a huge amount of effort, sweat and tears to be able to win it.
“If it is just a cup to play for, and not really valued, that the top players are [not] playing in the competition, then we must rather call it something else.”
Reminded of his humble beginnings at Western Transvaal, he admitted the minnow teams do have ambitions to compete for the highest honours.
“You have those dreams, but you must also realise who are the top teams and go and beat them.
“The nature of the competition, how it is at the moment, with players coming in and out all the time, makes it really difficult to put a team together.
“It is not sour grapes, but I just think the Currie Cup must be a special cup where all teams can contest – not just certain teams.”