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Stressful times for SA rugby administrators

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The first weekend in September is just around the corner, but as of Monday SA’s unions had not received an indication that the Currie Cup will start as scheduled.

The Currie Cup is due to start in a month but with no green light from government, rugby administrators are getting nervous. Photo: Christiaan Kotze

FOUR weeks on Friday the Currie Cup is due to commence but with no green light yet from the South African government, rugby administrators are getting nervous.

The first weekend in September is just around the corner, but as of Monday SA’s unions had not received an indication that the competition will, in fact, start as scheduled.

Sharks chief executive Eduard Coetzee says he is awaiting news from SA Rugby, and if they are not conveying anything to the unions it is because they, in turn, are waiting on government direction.

“There are a lot of stakeholders needing to know what is going on,” Coetzee said. “We would love to be sending out fixtures lists, for example, asap. Meanwhile, all we can do is prepare as best we can.”

If the return-to-play date is pushed later into September, it could have a knock-on effect on Springbok coach Jacque Nieanaber’s stipulation that the Boks cannot go to New Zealand for the Rugby Championship unless they have at least six Currie Cup games under their belts.

“We are just desperate to play,” Coetzee said. “The young talent that we have is going to surprise a lot of people.”

While the Sharks did little recruiting during the national lockdown, they did let go of a handful of senior players so that opportunities could be created for exciting youngsters.

The position of scrumhalf is a good case in point, where the Sharks released Louis Schreuder and Cameron Wright, which opened the door for an exceptional talent in 20-year-old Jaden Hendrikse, who last year was nominated as one of four players for the World Rugby Under-20 Championship Breakthrough Player of the Tournament award after a brilliant showing at the international showpiece in Rosario.

And this is bearing in mind that Hendrikse would still be behind Sanele Nohamba, one of the bright lights for the Sharks in Super Rugby earlier this year. The Sharks’ “third” scrumhalf is the exciting Grant Williams, the Paarl Gimnasium product. “We made a business decision that these guys need to play,” Coetzee said. “These things are always difficult because you are dealing with people’s livelihoods, but this is the best talent to come out of the age groups in recent years. We don’t want to lose these talented players, and we will if they don’t play.”

Another example is the departure of former captain and No 8 Tera Mtembu, who last week confirmed a move to the USA’s New England Free Jacks after 10 years with the Sharks.

“It wasn’t easy to see Tera go, he has been a son of the Sharks, but from a playing time point of view we could not guarantee him what he would have wanted and the offer he got from the United States was a good one,” Coetzee said. “We did offer him a coaching position, but he wants to prolong his playing career.

“And then you have a look at the talent we have at No 8 – SIkhumbuzo Notshe, Henco Venter, Phepsi Buthulezi, Evan Roos and Celimpilo Gumede.”