There is a rugby Cup that has been contested since 1892 in South Africa - simply put - the Currie Cup as all local and many overseas fans of SA rugby would know.
These days we are spoilt for choice with the Rugby Championship, the 6 Nations , European and English Premier Club rugby , Woman’s 6 Nations (boy can they put on the gas), Super rugby that has morphed in to the Trans-Tasman and the Rainbow Cup - not excluding Sevens , local club rugby , varsity rugby and of course Premier Schools rugby of which the latter is my favorite to watch - flair , naivety , pure excitement and the support next to the field.
The question then beckons - what to watch , what to watch less of and when to go and mow the lawn or have a chat to the neighbor about the next Bok test, and secondly where does the oldest Cup in SA rugby history fit in your schedule and if it has reached its expiry date?
My answer to that... a resounding NO, the Currie Cup is essential not only to our South African psyche but to every man/woman calling themselves a lover of the game. My reasons are as follows:
1. Development to the next level
One thing we have always prided ourselves in is our multi layered approach to structures in our rugby development , originally the CC and next level Bok's was the only road pre -1992. This has significantly changed since the world has become one and so small. The Vodacom Cup which included an Invitational Argentinian
team was the window of opportunity for developing players which did not yet make the cut it in the CC. The Vodacom Cup has fallen away and the next step after Varsity Cup is the CC.
Junior and baby faced teens now have the opportunity to showcase their skills against the “hardebaarde” thus keeping them local and affording us more opportunity to see whether the player could step up to International level via the Rainbow Cup / United Rugby Championship, or one step higher National honors on route to a World Cup. The only opportunity lost is the one not taken!!
2. Every step you take is one closer to the top
Many of our 2nd Tier Nations have no local competition and even limited International competitions to partake in, it is only when they get a Test once in a while they try to get their pro players away from the clubs they represent overseas in countries such as France. Examples would be Argentina and especially the Pacific
Nations (now to be included in the new Super Rugby Pacific). This in itself is virtually impossible in certain
circumstances in the sense that the player earns more playing for his club than his home grown country and naturally wants the best for his family ,coupled with Test windows and these days Covid protocols it is nearly impossible to field a first team. This was evident in the recent Tonga or Fiji Tests against the All Blacks.
The CC is one of the most important and natural stepping stone for our young players to “step-up” and forms an integral building block from school to International level. Once an 18 year old steps on a plane to a richer country he is lost locally and by giving our players local contracts (although not close to overseas value) is keeping local players in the equation for higher honors. The Tongan that left for NZ and due to injury or competition never develops further than club level is lost for the development of his home nation.
3.Transfer of skills - cross pollination
Johan Goosen , Deon Fourie , Juan de Jongh, Frans Steyn, Ruan Pienaar and the list goes on - returning from lucrative overseas contracts finishing their careers in the jersey of a Province or Bulls - imagine you as a 22 - year old followed one of these that have reached Bok level, won tournaments , were scooped up by multi-billion pound clubs and now returning for a swansong locally.
The experience , skill level and level-headedness can not be bought, yes they might have lost a bit of pace and take longer to recover after a game but their value to the team and each individual on and off the field who feeds off their knowledge and experience is unquantifiable. They are a fountain of knowledge in terms of life after rugby , long injury periods and planning for the day after the whistle blows.
4. Scorecard - how healthy are the Unions?
This is quite a contentious issue currently and only mentioning the WP Union and the influx of private equity into the Bulls and Sharks quickly relates to on-field success or lack there of. The Griquas and the Pumas are far from push-overs and almost both Griquas and the Pumas found themselves in the semi- finals.
Griquas did and maybe if it was not for the draw in their last game who knows where the Pumas would have found themselves next Saturday. Migration of players is a clear indicator of the pro - era and also where the best of the best want to display their skills - a healthy Union is an Union with funds , depth , clear vision and
goals, hence the best find themselves playing for those Unions. SA rugby as the ultimate governing body in SA can clearly see who adds and who subtracts from the game.
5. Quantity vs Quality
Wine , fruit , vegetables , seafood - all great exports of our
dearly beloved country but there is another commodity , an asset
only found once lost. A CJ Stander who bulldozes through a Bok pack
or a Duhan van der Merwe who scores in the 6 Nations - our rugby
England , France , USA , Japan , Ireland , Scotland have all fielded our local grown pure SA beef rugby player. Many times we discuss/ debate / fight amongst ourselves who is the best in which position especially when it comes to the Boks. There is only one Bok team ,3 players per position is quite some depth but we have ample - yes not all at the same level or standard but how many times have the 3rd team school players achieved more than the school level first team player?
Supply and demand - those overly used words in a marketing context - but it is economics.
There are lesser known rugby teams - Spain , Belgium , Germany etc. and they would jump at signing a South African player - and being paid in Euros is 17- times better!! By layering our structures with the CC we keep another 2/3 local players in the domestic competition, and for those unfortunate players that can not cut it locally can fly into those teams - yes it might not be Bok level but a career from rugby is easily achieved and maybe even a Belgium wife and a career post- rugby.
6. Cameraderie North vs South , Piesangboere vs Mielie boere!!
Growing up in the Cape , playing rugby at school in the morning and then going to Newlands to see Weepee against Noord Transvaal - was the ultimate as a teenager and likewise in Pretoria after a Monnas / Afrikaner Hoer game going to Loftus- the surfer dudes in Natal even grew up like that ( aka thinking of the great Cabous)!!
What gives you more enjoyment than walking to a stadium cheering your team and having in-depth conversations with fellow supporters or the opposition (all depending of course on the amount of lemonade intake).
In conclusion - NO the Cup has not lost it shine ,
YES we need to treasure it!!
May the best of the best win this Saturday so we can look
forward to a cracking final….(with one eye down under!!!)
Author - The Rugby fan!