Big plans for rugby formats
Radical change is in the air and rugby fans could witness new formats in the Currie Cup and Guinness PRO14 in 2019 that will affect the Isuzu Southern Kings and the EP Elephants.
Plans are on the table, and have already been discussed at the highest level, for the Elephants/Kings to play in an enlarged eight-team Currie Cup Premier Division, which will not overlap with the PRO14.
Though EP Rugby president Andre Rademan said he could not comment on the plans, a decision on the new format is expected to be made by SA Rugby in early December.
If EP do play in the top league, they are expected to be called the Elephants and not the Kings.
If the Currie Cup and PRO14 do not overlap as planned, the Kings/Elephants will be able to field a much stronger team than they did in the Currie Cup First Division when they lost all six matches they played in 2018.
Because of financial constraints, the Elephants were forced to use amateur players in a professional league.
It was a disastrous campaign, with the Kings leaking an astronomical 309 points in only six outings.
There is speculation that the new-look Currie Cup will include eight teams in two pools, with the Super Rugby franchises (Sharks, Bulls, Stormers and Lions) in one pool and the Elephants/Kings, Cheetahs, Griquas and Pumas in the other.
With talk that the Currie Cup will start on July 23 and finish on September 9, it will not overlap with the PRO14, which will give the Elephants/ Kings a bigger playing pool to draw from.
In Europe the talk is that the PRO14 could expand into the PRO16 with two more South African teams being added.
That could see the league switching to a single conference that sees each team play each other once, with extra return derby games.
That would see a reduction in normal league games from the current 21 to 18.
Next season’s PRO14 is set to start on September 27, because of the Rugby World Cup, which would allow the Kings and Cheetahs to play their best team in both competitions.
This year’s single round of league Currie Cup action was widely criticised and the new format will give it more prestige.
The Pumas and Griquas, who were identified late in 2017 by SA Rugby as franchise candidates, are also set to play in Europe.
Reports have hinted that they could join European competitions, with the Anglo-Welsh Cup and PRO14 mentioned as possibilities.
The Anglo-Welsh Cup is a knock-out competition featuring the 12 English Premiership clubs and the four Welsh regions.
Super Rugby’s organising body, Sanzaar, has confirmed the dates for the 2019 Super rugby season, which will start on February 15.
The first match of the season will see the Chiefs hosting the Highlanders, with the Super Rugby final on July 6.
FLYING HIGH: Andre Esterhuizen clashes with Sbusiso Nkosi during a team training session at Insep High Performance Centre in Paris on Thursday