Currie Cup: Good, not great

Springbok legend Naas Botha has been encouraged by what he has seen in this year’s Absa Currie Cup, but believes that the young performers still have a way to go.

The 2006 domestic competition has seen a number of talented players producing some impressive and at times exhilirating pieces of rugby. Amongst the top five unions, numerous players have exhibited the potential to develop into something more than just domestic contenders.

This is where Botha feels that South African rugby needs to be careful. “I think that it is significant that none of the Springboks have played in this year’s competition,” he said on Boots & All. “The standard of rugby has been fantastic, but you need to ask yourself if that is because there were no Springboks included in the tournament. Everything has been levelled out.”

Botha was far from negative about the situation, but rather wary to judge the quality of such untested youngsters on the basis of their performances at this level.

“There is a still a lot to play for,” he said. “The Currie Cup is an important build up to the Super 14. If those players can excel there, they can get closer to being selected for the squad for the World Cup.”

The intensity of the competition is far from subsiding, with two massive semi-finals being played over the weekend. WP are the only side to have beaten the Bulls twice, but Botha pointed out that home advantage will see the Pretoria men as favourites.

“Playing on their home field will play its part, and why not, you should make it as hard as you can for opponents to visit your home ground.

“The key will be the first 20 minutes, as the Bulls have shown that if you can rattle them early on they tend to unravel very quickly.

“Having said that, I think that Province may struggle a bit. Naas Olivier has not been showing the form expected of a player at this level, especially with his kicking. It’s nothing to do with the technique, but more a problem with the space between the ears.

“When you’re missing one or two kicks, it can have a huge effect on your confidence. He is going to have to lift his game on Saturday.”