Currie Cup blueprint to save SA rugby
#COVID-19: As SANZAAR and the rest continue to scramble for ideas, it seems like the introduction of a ‘locally-based derby competition’ is the best option.
New Zealand Rugby and Rugby Australia have already thrown their support behind the domestic derby fixtures.
And now South Africa Rugby is also exploring the option to return to an internal franchise and club competition, in the wake of the recent measures introduced to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic
These plans could see South African franchises and other provincial teams return to a new, locally-based derby competition in view of the current suspension of Super Rugby and the Pro14.
The return of a locally-based derby competition could also spark spectators’ interest and see the revival of South Africa’s prestigious Currie Cup competition.
In recent years the Currie Cup, who was once the country’s proud competition, has been reduced to ‘junk status’ as the SA Rugby modified the tournament year after year.
In 2018 it hit an all-time low when, the competition – steeped in history and tradition – was reduced to a shortened, single-round format with seven teams in the Premier Division.
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*Also read: Is this the end of SANZAAR’s showpiece
However, with the global deadly coronavirus pandemic, SA rugby has been forced to take drastic and ‘innovative’ measures to save the sports and keep stakeholders happy.
According to SA Rugby’s media statement, the CEO Jurie Roux has confirmed the national rugby body is in ongoing discussions with stakeholders about a number of competition models that could be implemented, with one being a locally-based derby competition
“SA Rugby is currently evaluating all our competition structures, with a view to restructuring it in the interim so that we are able to afford game time to all our franchise and provincial teams,” said Roux.
“Obviously, nothing can happen in the next few weeks until the ‘period of social distancing’, as instructed by President Cyril Ramaphosa, has lapsed.
“We are considering local derby matches between our South African teams. We must still drill into the specifics, but we are confident we will be able to put a feasible plan on the table that will be suitable for everyone.
“These are extraordinary times which call for extraordinary measures and it also offers us an opportunity to be innovative.
“We are working closely with our broadcast partner, and other important stakeholders and will announce plans once we are in a position to do so,” Roux added.
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Springboks and June preparations
Meanwhile, Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus confirmed that plans for of all national team training and alignment camps and business travel are already in place to continue with preparations.
Scheduled Springbok alignment camps, Springbok Women’s training camps, as well as the Junior Springboks’ and Blitzboks’ preparations have all been suspended until April 14.
“Speaking purely from a rugby point of view, we realise no one could prepare for the COVID-19 pandemic and as a result, all of us in the game across the globe are in the same boat,” said Erasmus.
“As SA Rugby has already said we need to ensure the wellness of players, supporters and staff as well as playing rugby’s part in helping counter the pandemic.
“Our planning for the season will carry on regardless – whether it’s the Springboks, Junior Springboks, Blitzboks or our national women’s teams – as we still have a lot to prepare for.
“While there are challenges when it comes to face-to-face interaction with players and team activities, modern communication methods make it possible for coaches, players and management teams to keep in constant contact with one another.
“Nothing beats sitting around a table or running around on the training field, but this is not a unique situation to us here in South Africa and without going into too much detail, we can confirm that the work has not stopped and we are hard at work preparing for our forthcoming Tests, other matches or tournaments.”
The Springboks’Incoming Series Tests in July (against Scotland and Georgia), Youth Week tournaments and Currie Cup remain as scheduled but will be reviewed in April.