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Currie Cup saved

NEWS: The Currie Cup has been saved through a ‘compromise’.

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The South African Rugby Union confirmed the tournament will kick off as scheduled.

It is the one of the results of a ground-breaking alignment between employers and players to maximise player welfare, while facilitating a 12-month-long South African season.

The new deal – that is scheduled for final sign off on Thursday – acknowledges that a compulsory, industry-wide eight-week shutdown is impossible to accommodate in a South African playing calendar that straddles the hemispheres (the international franchises play through the SA summer in the nine-month-long Untied Rugby Championship, while the Springbok Test season and domestic competitions are rooted in the SA winter).

The South African Rugby Employers’ Organisation and MyPlayers (the professional players’ organisation) have agreed that accepting a 12-month season – while embedding player welfare strategies – was the optimal way to address an internationally unique match-scheduling challenge.

The agreement was brokered following arbitration of a dispute relating to mandatory rest periods for players.

The arbitrator ruled that the players’ terms and conditions of employment required all contracted players to rest simultaneously for eight weeks.

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The arbitrator also ruled that such rest periods were not contracted to take place within each 12-month cycle.

The new deal instead provides for:
* Structured, individualised eight-week rest periods for all players with formal notice periods when such breaks are to be taken;
* Adoption of World Rugby player load guidelines which are in finalisation;
* Maintenance of a strict, individual player load monitoring programme;
* Broadened scope for the Joint Committee on Contracted Players’ Safety and Welfare and utilisation of the Emergency Committee to ensure effective implementation of the new arrangements and;
* Adjusted travel arrangements for URC/EPCR teams from 1 July 2025.

The original award cast doubt on the possibility of accommodating the Currie Cup in the current season so as not overlap with the United Rugby Championship.

However, the Currie Cup will kick off as scheduled in the first weekend of July (in a revamped format agreed by the General Council in December), while the First Division will spring into action this weekend with three matches scheduled for Saturday.

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“This has been a very fruitful process, and the outcome is that we have collectively faced up to the realities of our post-COVID calendar and come up with a solution for a problem unlike any other sport that I am aware of,” said Rian Oberholzer, CEO of SA Rugby.

“Every sport, everywhere has an off-season, but we have found a way to balance the equation of maintaining our competition schedule to drive revenues for 12 months of the year, while securing player welfare. We might have had to go through an arbitration to help concentrate minds, but the result is a good one.

“The importance of player welfare was never in doubt. The challenge was to find ways to accommodate all needs.

“I’d like to thank MyPlayers and SAREO for constructively working their way towards this solution.”

Mandisi Tshonti, GM: Player Affairs of MyPlayers said: “This agreement revolutionises the South African playing calendar as it makes provision for non-stop professional rugby.

“It ensures the commercial engine can keep delivering, by giving broadcasters and sponsors an optimal opportunity to partner with SA Rugby and the competing unions, while player welfare has been enhanced.”

The Currie Cup kicks off on the weekend of July 5 and 6, and will reach its climax with the Final on September 21.

In an exciting new feature, the competition will be staged over one-and-a-half rounds, followed by two semifinals and the grand finale.

The eight teams are divided into two pools of four each by virtue of last year’s standings.

Pool A will consist of the Cheetahs (No.1 ranked last year), the Bulls (No.4), Western Province (No.5) and the Griffons (No.8).

Pool B sees the Sharks (ranked No.2), Pumas (No.3), Lions (No.6) and Griquas (No.7) grouped together.

Teams will play home and away matches within their respective pools plus a single round of games against sides in the opposite pool.

The two-top ranked teams in each pool will progress to the semi-finals on 14 September, with the two winners set to battle it out for the famous Currie Cup in the September 21 Final.

Meanwhile, the remaining six provincial sides – the Boland Cavaliers, Falcons, Leopards, SWD Eagles, Eastern Province and Border – will compete against each other in the First Division, with five rounds of league games scheduled.

The opening round is this weekend, with semifinals scheduled for July 20 and the Final for July 27.

All fixtures, results and logs will appear on the SA Rugby website.

In the latest episode of Walk the Talk, Jim Hamilton chats with double World Cup winner Damian de Allende about all things Springbok rugby, including RWC2023 and the upcoming Ireland series. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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