Big plans for rugby for­mats

The Herald (South Africa) - - Front Page - Ge­orge By­ron by­rong@ti­soblack­

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

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