VIDEO: Currie Cup's credibility at stake
The Currie Cup’s status as South Africa’s premier domestic competition has been called into question.
Western Province coach John Dobson even suggested annulling the first half of the season and “restarting” with a single round to ensure an unimpeachable tournament.
Dobson was speaking after his team lost 21-38 to a motivated Cheetahs outfit in Bloemfontein on Wednesday.
However, it was not his team’s back-to-back losses, but rather the disputable status of the tournament that was in the spotlight.
The Province coach described the situation as “a product of the times” – given the fractured nature of the competition, with a number of cancelled matches.
He said there is a concern over the credibility of the competition.
Already five of the 18 scheduled matches this season have been called off.
The Sharks’ Round Six meeting with the Bulls, which was scheduled for Wednesday, July 21, did not take place. The fixture was called off due to security concerns in KwaZulu-Natal.
Last week the Currie Cup match between the Lions and Cheetahs – scheduled for Ellis Park this past Saturday – was cancelled as a result of concerns over the ongoing violence in South Africa. Harold Verster, Managing director of the Free State Cheetahs, confirmed that the Bloemfontein-based team was not willing to travel to Johannesburg for the fixture – citing the violence that ravaged parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng as one of the main reasons.
That cancellation followed after SA Rugby announced earlier in the week that the planned matches between the Griquas and the Bulls, as well as the Sharks and Pumas, were called off.
The clash between the Sharks and the Pumas, scheduled for Durban last Friday, was called off due to unrest in KwaZulu-Natal, while this past Saturday’s match in Kimberley between Griquas and the Bulls was called off so the Bulls could provide additional match practice for the Springboks ahead of the three-Test series against the British and Irish Lions.
Last month the Cheetahs cancelled their Round Three Currie Cup encounter with the Bulls. The game, scheduled to take place in Bloemfontein on Wednesday, June 30, was cancelled due to 13 Cheetahs players and several members of the management team – including head coach Hawies Fourie – having tested positive for COVID-19.
Dobson admitted it is all “very disruptive” and without apportioning blame, pointed out that a team like the Bulls have been awarded points for three matches they did not play.
He said if games keep getting cancelled at the current rate, SA Rugby may have to revisit the situation and the competition.
Dobson added that the unions still have to look after their players, given the United Rugby Championship – in which South Africa’s four main franchises will start competing with top European teams – will get underway on September 25, just a fortnight after the conclusion of the Currie Cup.
“We must be mindful that our Springboks won’t be playing much in the United Rugby Championship until the new year [January],” the WP coach told @rugby365com, when asked about the current situation.
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“We have to rely on our home guard players and I have to be disciplined not to flog certain home guard guys,” he said, adding that he runs the risk of “breaking” players if they are not properly managed.
“It is a tricky balancing act at the moment.”
He said the competition structure and decision to play a double round may need to be revisited.
“This is way above my pay grade,” Dobson said, adding: “Perhaps it is worth it, after this first round, to say: ‘Let us reset and perhaps restart with a single round’.
“The idea of the double round was to give exposure to the game, but given the number of cancelled games, it is worth revisiting it.
“The whole situation is perhaps inequitable.
“We benefitted from the first round – when the Bulls were [playing the Rainbow Cup Final] in Treviso. That was tough on the Bulls [who had to field a mixture of a C and club team in the Currie Cup fixture].
“It is worth a macro look at where this tournament is now, after the first round.”