Cur­rie Cup: the good, bad and ugly

The good, the bad and the ugly of the 2017 edi­tion of the Cur­rie Cup, writes Jac­ques van der Westhuyzen

The Mercury - - FRONT PAGE -

THE GOOD Young­sters to the fore: For many rea­sons there was an op­por­tu­nity for sev­eral young stars to get a chance and how they grabbed their op­por­tu­nity. Some like War­rick Ge­lant (22) and Damian Willemse (19) had al­ready shown us what they were ca­pa­ble of in Su­per Rugby, but they con­tin­ued that good form in the Cur­rie Cup, while other young stars of the fu­ture like Golden Lions play­ers Aphiwe Dyan­tyi (20) and Marco Janse van Vuren (21) pros­pered.

At­tack­ing in­tent: The de­fence coaches won’t have liked what went on over the course of the com­pe­ti­tion but at the end of the day what fans want to see is tries be­ing scored, and the more the bet­ter. And there were plenty. In to­tal the seven teams scored a com­bined 378 tries, many of them truly spec­tac­u­lar ef­forts. Well done to the coaches and play­ers for try­ing to im­ple­ment an at­tack-minded game, keep­ing ball in hand and us­ing the whole width of the field. Com­pet­i­tive­ness: It wouldn’t be quite right to sug­gest it was strength ver­sus strength but with so many Su­per Rugby play­ers miss­ing, all the teams were fairly evenly matched and that made for some tight, com­pelling matches. The Pumas and Gri­quas, who fin­ished sixth and sev­enth on the stand­ings re­spec­tively, won four games each and were not far off play­ing in the semi-fi­nals. They scared a few teams, beat a few oth­ers and gave as good as they got from the so-called big boys. THE BAD Ref­er­ee­ing: Sev­eral Su­per Rugby coaches made it perti­nently clear that they were not happy with the stan­dard of ref­er­ee­ing in that com­pe­ti­tion and things didn’t get much bet­ter in the Cur­rie Cup. The coaches aren’t al­lowed to dis­cuss the of­fi­ci­at­ing or of­fi­cials – why, I don’t know. The truth is the ref­er­ee­ing wasn’t great.

Lack of in­ter­est: Phew, it took a while for the com­pe­ti­tion to get go­ing this year. Su­per Rugby now ap­pears to be the be-all-and-end-all for rugby fans, es­pe­cially the new ones, who didn’t grow up watch­ing Cur­rie Cup matches every Satur­day af­ter­noon at 3.00pm dur­ing the win­ter months. It doesn’t help that some of South Africa’s top play­ers don’t give a jot about it any­more; the only time it re­ally got ex­cit­ing – and peo­ple were in­ter­ested – was when the semi-fi­nals came around. De­fence gone miss­ing: For all the won­der­ful at­tack­ing rugby we saw, and all the great tries that were scored, not too much at­ten­tion was given to de­fence; un­til pos­si­bly the lat­ter stages of the com­pe­ti­tion. Bar the semis and fi­nal, the seven teams con­ceded a whop­ping 284 tries be­tween them in the reg­u­lar sea­son, with many matches high-scor­ing af­fairs. Is this what we want to see in the best and strong­est do­mes­tic com­pe­ti­tion? THE UGLY Empty sta­di­ums: This goes hand in hand with the lack of in­ter­est shown in the com­pe­ti­tion by the fans. SA has some of the best rugby sta­di­ums in the world and see­ing row upon row of seats, rather than fans bunched up next to one another is, and was, a sore sight. Sev­eral matches had only a few thou­sand fans in the stands and one has got to won­der whether it’s not bet­ter to play cer­tain games at smaller, more in­ti­mate venues. Struc­ture and tim­ing: Some­thing’s got to be done about the struc­ture and tim­ing of the com­pe­ti­tion. It didn’t help the Lions one bit that the Cur­rie Cup started when they were still in­volved in the Su­per Rugby play­offs, while the Free State Chee­tahs – be­cause they joined the PRO14 – had to split their squad be­tween two com­pe­ti­tions. What a shocker. Also, at one stage some teams were asked to play three matches in a week; that’s just not on. Lack of trans­for­ma­tion: Some teams ticked the “trans­for­ma­tion box” bet­ter than oth­ers when it came to op­por­tu­ni­ties for black play­ers, but what was glar­ing is the fact not one of the seven teams was coached by a black coach. There may be the odd as­sis­tant, but re­ally, this is a com­pe­ti­tion where promis­ing young black coaches could surely ben­e­fit from hav­ing a go against good op­po­si­tion. It is quite un­be­liev­able that this is an is­sue that is still be­ing dis­cussed.

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