Adulterating the goose's eggs
A lot of people may have turned on the television, of late, too see Currie Cup rugby and have been confused.
To see full blown provincial teams in action with no crowds on a Thursday night and wondered what was going on.
In place of the Vodacom Cup (another lost sponsor) came what was meant to be an expanded Currie Cup (as per SARU's own press release in the wake of the competition sponsor's withdrawal), then on their website was called the Provincial Cup in April and now appears to be just called Currie Cup Qualifiers, leaving it in a sort of grey area as to its status.
For all SARU's mishaps of late – a misfiring national team, the flight of sponsors, spectator and viewer flight, loss of some key staff, and the transformation debacle – this one has garnished reactively little publicity as through its poor conception, no-one is interested.
Ill thought out, it must be the most confusing, changing a competition in modern professional sport.
It involves all 14 provinces, with the six Super Rugby unions' provincial teams (in effect the Super Rugby C team) participating, as well as Namibia.
A few issues though.
The Super Rugby provincial teams were guaranteed participation in the Currie Cup – so they were playing for, err, nothing.
The other eight SA teams were playing critically for a place in the constantly watered down Currie Cup Premier Division and a lucrative grant.
Everything on the line.
The Namibian thing backfired, as it clashed with the National team's African and Nations Cup commitments – which resulted in them fielding a second/third-string team for the majority of the competition, resulting in regular 100 point thrashings and a century notched up by the Border Bulldogs in Windhoek.
Second last, i.e. 14 out of 15, on the log are the Eastern Province Kings – guaranteed participation in the Premier Division despite being lower on the log than behemoths like the Falcons and Griffons.
The race to be crowned 'winner' of the qualifying competition is between Griquas and Western Province – with WP probably having the inside track.
The top five places are made up of the resurgent Boland, the Golden Lions and Pumas.
So three of the top five places are teams playing for something – Premier Division status.
The other four Super Rugby unions nowhere to be seen.
As stated, at one stage, SARU referred it to as the Provincial Cup.
The Currie Cup logo is on team sleeves. But there is no sponsor, no playoffs or Final, no points carried over, no prize money and no trophy.
Somebody maybe could have nipped out from SARU house to Tygervalley Shopping centre and bought a trophy so there was something on the line for the six Super Rugby Unions as well as the other nine teams.
No log points carried over to the two divisions – Currie Cup (Premier Division) and First Division.
Whoever came up with this…
That means in essence 105 games were played to determine Griquas, Pumas and Boland will play in a single round, rushed Currie Cup competition.
The Super Rugby teams were in essence forced to play 14 friendlies, at some expense and injuries – with nothing on the line.
They had to play 84 friendlies (14 each).
Then to cap it, the Currie Cup competition proper is so 'well planned' and this once proud competition taken so seriously by its 'custodians', SARU, that the first round is played on the day of the Super Rugby Final.
So should a South African team make the Final, they will field a team from the qualifiers.
And the poor non Springboks in Super Rugby teams will have absolutely no respite and be dragged into a Currie Cup competition.
And it is actually smaller.
The double round is gone. Last year's two groups are gone – which at least saw the Lions versus Sharks' home and away and the Bulls versus WP home and away.
It's now a straight single round, with the season ending two Saturdays earlier than normal.
This will be the least attended, least interest Currie Cup competition in history.
A sponsor has been announced, but we understands heavily, heavily discounted.
We can understand that we cannot control SANZAAR's machinations and formats.
However, this one, the Currie Cup, we (SA Rugby) can control.
But rather than look after the crown provincial competition in the world, we have taken the blunderbuss, aimed it at our foot and pulled the trigger.