In just under two weeks, South Africa will see the Currie Cup kick off. The countries oldest tournament, having started all the way back in 1892. It will get underway on the weekend of the 14th and 15th of January, with the final being played some 6 months later on the 25th of June. The change in schedule has been necessitated by the schedule of the United Rugby Championship and SA Rugby commitments having to align with their Northern counterparts.
This year, the tournaments premier division will feature 7 sides who will each face one another home and away. The 7 sides are the Sharks, Western Province, Bulls, Cheetahs, Lions, Griqua's and Puma's. Whilst the first division will see the Leopard's, Griffon's, Valke, Boland, Eastern Province, Border and the South West District facing off.
From 2023 the Premier Division will be expanded to 8 sides, with the top team from the first division being promoted for a period of two years. Subsequently at the end of the two year cycle, the bottom team will be automatically relegated from the Premier and the First Division's top side promoted. The two years is a nice change to a solitary season promotion as it allows for some proper planning and preparation to take place for the smaller sides as they find their feet amongst SA's big 5 sides.
With the Currie Cup being played at the same time as the URC, the four big provinces will have some juggling to do with their playing personnel to ensure they remain competitive in both tournaments whilst also ensuring their players are properly rotated and rested for what will be another long and arduous season. The Physicality of the South African game is well documented and the number of local derbies could come back to haunt franchise's if players aren't managed properly.
Personally something I am quite happy about with the overlap of the tournaments is that we will be treated to some mid-week rugby. A number of games are scheduled to take place on Wednesday evenings, which gives us the perfect excuse to light up the braai on a Wednesday evening and do some screaming at the tv.
The Currie Cup is a tournament that is woven into the fabric of South African Rugby and hopefully 2022 will see the chance for more Springboks to frequent the pitch as they are normally on international duty when it is played. The last hope is for the return of crowds to the stadium's and we will have a quality tournament on our hands. Bring on the 2022 Currie Cup.
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