The Currie Cup needs an extreme makeover in order to get fans’ hearts racing again.
South Africa’s so-called ‘premier domestic competition’ (what else is there, the Vodacom Cup?) kicks off on Friday with matches between the Kavaliers and Leopards, and Cheetahs and Griquas.
The majority of rugby fans I’ve spoken to this week couldn’t care less, and I don’t blame them. After the season we’ve had so far (Super 14 and a Lions series), watching a Currie Cup, without the top Boks taking part, is like drinking warm beer after a bottle of the finest champagne (OK if you’re an Englishman, but pretty crap if you’re a Saffa).
So how can we add some fizz to the 120-year-old tournament? How can we make it captivate the public imagination – from the first game right through to the last?
The current format of the Currie Cup, as I’ve said often before, is crazy. The league stage of the 2009 tournament begins on 10 July and ends on 10 October, during which time each team plays each other home and away. Only five of the eight teams (the Super Rugby franchises) can realistically expect to win the competition, yet four of them will progress to the semi-finals on 17 October (three months after the Currie Cup began). Last year, the Golden Lions lost six matches out of 14, and still qualified for the play-offs. Talk about rewarding mediocrity.
If Saru and tournament sponsors Absa were clever, they would reduce the Currie Cup to six teams (the five Super Rugby franchises and the Southern Kings) and hold it from early September to late October, with a national club competition taking place in July and August.
That would allow the Boks to play in virtually the whole tournament, which would attract a lot more fans to stadiums and increase TV ratings. Each team would play each other once, with the top two on the log progressing to the final. No longer could a side lose a couple of matches and know they still stood a good chance of reaching the play-offs. Lose two games in this tournament, and you’d be gone.
Now wouldn’t that get your heart racing?
By Simon Borchardt