DURBAN – After weeks of deliberating on various scenarios for South Africa’s return to rugby, SA Rugby is today set to announce a double-round Currie Cup that will see the game through to a final on December 12.
This was the initial suggestion for South Africa’s way forward out of the Covid-19 crisis but then it was mooted that the country’s Super Rugby teams play each other in a model based on New Zealand’s Aotearoa Cup, with a single round Currie Cup to follow.
However, it is understood that SA Rugby have now settled on a full-blown Currie Cup packed with the country’s Springboks, starting on August 28 and comprising seven or eight teams – the participation of the Cheetahs and Kings is still to be finalised because of their Pro14 commitments.
SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux is expecting to confirm this when he hosts a media briefing on Tuesday afternoon, and it is likely that he will also confirm South Africa’s interest in Europe’s Pro14.
New Zealand effectively scuppered Super Rugby last week when their review of their Super Rugby future concluded that there was no place for South Africa and Argentina, while only Australia’s two strongest teams were welcome to join an eight-team competition that would also include a Pacific lslands team.
Sharks chief executive Eduard Coetzee said that while he had loved Super Rugby as player (when it was the Super 12 and he was prop for the Sharks), the Covid crisis has changed the rugby landscape.
“New Zealand has made it clear about how they see their future,” Coetzee said yesterday.
“They must row their boat and we will do the same. We should not be apologetic about our standing in the rugby world … we bring a lot to the table.”
Coetzee’s Sharks plus the Stormers, Lions and Bulls are set to replace the Cheetahs and Kings in what will be an expanded Pro16 in 2021.
The competition currently comprises four teams from Ireland, four from Wales and two each from Italy, Scotland and South Africa.
The fate of the unfortunate Cheetahs and Kings is unknown and no doubt will be a question for Roux to answer this afternoon.
“I played a lot of rugby in Europe (52 games for Bayonne; 125 for Biarritz) and I loved the cultures of the Irish, Scottish and Welsh,” Coetzee said. “If we go that route (Pro14) our players will enjoy it and the rugby will be top quality.
“Our public possibly don’t know enough about the Pro14 because we haven’t always had our strongest teams participating, but it will be a different story when we send our best teams with our Boks.
“We will have a much better chance of making knock-out stages and the beauty of it is that we won’t have to travel half way around the world for a play-off that is so difficult to win because the players are exhausted from jet lag (as is the case in Super Rugby).”
Coetzee pointed out the flaw in Super Rugby that can have a South African team winning a game at home, travelling on a Sunday to New Zealand, arriving on the Tuesday and trying to be competitive in a play-off against one of the best teams in the world on the Saturday.
“The travel factor would be a big bonus for our players (in Pro14), and looking at it from Pro14 teams coming to us, I definitely think there will be tourism spin-offs for South Africa.”