Cur­rie Cup un­der threat by rugby’s new mi­gra­tion

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

So many com­pe­ti­tions to pick from, just what are we go­ing to do? This year, and for as long as rugby has been played across borders, all we’ve known in South Africa is Su­per Rugby. It has grown from 10 to 12 to 14 to 15 to 18 teams, with new­com­ers like the Force, Rebels, Jaguares and Sun­wolves all mak­ing an ap­pear­ance in the past few years.

From next year though, South Africans will get a new taste of in­ter­na­tional pro­vin­cial or club rugby when the Chee­tahs and Kings join the Pro 12, to now be­come the Pro 14. Or, at least that’s what we hear is go­ing to hap­pen.

Then there’s the like­li­hood, too, of other South African teams join­ing the An­glo-Welsh Cup and oth­ers head­ing to Amer­ica to play in a new com­pe­ti­tion there. At the same time the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Storm­ers will con­tinue in Su­per Rugby.

Where’s it all go­ing to end, and how are all these com­pe­ti­tions go­ing to im­pact on one an­other and the con­di­tion­ing of the play­ers, who for so long have been told by sports sci­en­tists they need to get more rest.

The big­gest im­pact though could be felt right here in South Africa, with the Cur­rie Cup surely in dan­ger of be­ing chopped from the sched­ule in years to come.

Al­ready it is a wa­tered-down com­pe­ti­tion be­cause so many play­ers head to Ja­pan to earn a few ex­tra bucks be­tween Au­gust and Fe­bru­ary each year – some­thing the union’s al­low just so they can hang on to their best play­ers for Su­per Rugby du­ties. And, in be­tween, play­ers also are lost to the Spring­boks.

But with the 2017 edi­tion of the so-called strength-ver­sus-strength seven-team Cur­rie Cup start­ing this week­end, one’s got to won­der if it isn’t al­ready dead in the wa­ter? It’s com­ing just a week af­ter the fin­ish of the new SuperSport Rugby Chal­lenge and for con­ceiv­ably three rounds the Lions, or Sharks or Storm­ers will be without their best play­ers be­cause one or more of them will still be in­volved in the Su­per Rugby play-offs.

The Lions es­pe­cially could be hard-hit. With Jo­han Ack­er­mann leav­ing to Glouces­ter when the Su­per Rugby sea­son is done, Swys de Bruin and JP Fer­reira are in the hot-seat for the Cur­rie Cup ... but their fo­cus for the next three weeks, hope­fully, will be on win­ning the Su­per Rugby ti­tle as as­sis­tants to Ack­er­mann. How fair is that on the Cur­rie Cup Lions, and the oth­ers?

The so-called new Pro 14, in­clud­ing the Chee­tahs and Kings – who’ve been axed from Su­per Rugby – also starts in Septem­ber, a full month and more be­fore the Cur­rie Cup is sched­uled to fin­ish, in late Oc­to­ber. How will this sched­ul­ing prob­lem af­fect those two teams’ Cur­rie Cup am­bi­tions ... and Pro 14 am­bi­tions?

And let’s not for­get that while the Chee­tahs and Kings have run their Su­per Rugby race, we’re still no closer to know­ing who in Aus­tralia will be chopped from their con­fer­ence next year ... will it be the Force, or Rebels, or Brumbies?

One thing is cer­tain though, the for­mat and struc­ture of de­ter­min­ing the Su­per Rugby fi­nal­ists needs a big shake up. How can it be deemed right and fair that the Brumbies – with a lowly six wins from 15 matches this sea­son for 34 log points – host a quar­ter-fi­nal this week­end? But then how right is it that the Sun­wolves, who took nearly 100 points against the Lions, and won only twice this year, stay in?

The good news though is this new-look 15-team Su­per Rugby com­pe­ti­tion – where all the teams will still not play against all the other teams be­cause there isn’t enough time for that – is for the next three sea­sons only, un­til the cur­rent broad­cast agree­ment ex­pires. And then, hope­fully, we get a com­pe­ti­tion wor­thy of be­ing called su­per!

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