With the Carling Currie Cup just days away, one has to wonder how it will play out for the top contenders, especially with most not likely to field their best players for various reasons.
The opening round sees South Africa’s biggest rivalry already being duped as a watered down clash due to the fact that the Vodacom Bulls – who more than likely will be in Italy to play the final of the Rainbow Cup, will have to face off with Western Province with a third string team.
Other reasons are teams having to go into bio-bubbles 10 days before playing the British and Irish Lions who will be on tour during a big part of the oldest rugby tournament in the world.
An interesting thing however is the fact that club rugby might have a huge impact on this year’s event with teams having to call on Varsity Cup and local club players due to the heavy international fixture demand waiting on the Springboks, which require strict quarantine protocols. Squad depth has also come to the fore with franchises being allowed to increase their 45-man squads to 50 but only until October thanks to the approval from Sareo, the employers’ organization.
The problem for the franchises, however, is that according to the contracting rules, the contracts still cannot be concluded with the players for less than 12 months. This means that franchises can not only contract for the next few months, and will only bring in players on a loan basis – and that from the big provinces.
Nevertheless, rugby fans will be happy to hear that there will be a sense of normality around the Currie Cup again this year, with seven teams – the Bulls, Sharks, Lions, Western Province, Free State Cheetahs, Griquas and the Pumas – play over a double round, with the top four advancing to a semi-final round leading into the final on 11 September.
Looking at the 7 teams taking part it is by no means a given who would walk away with top honours come 11 September.
Although, it would be better to play at a South African minimum casino deposit if we had to make a call right now, our money would be invested in the Cheetahs or Lions as they won’t be affected by Springbok duties as much as the Bulls, Sharks and Western Province.
However, looking at the way Jake White has recruited over the past year one has to wait and see if it pays off or not and with recent results going much in favour of the Pretoria outfit one would be silly not to back the Bulls.
The Sharks have not really done as much as the Bulls on the recruitment side of things and have taken a bigger approach on the youth side of their playing structures, something many are waiting to see pay dividends. They are the team affected most by Springboks departing for international duty, so lack of experience could be a problem.
Western Province has lost 8 players to the Boks and will have their youth ranks step up to the plate to see if they can get back to being title contenders as usual.
With the Lions and Cheetahs not affected too badly by the international selections, one has to feel that they will continue as normal and offer stronger competition to the three teams already mentioned above, making the competition very exciting.
The Griquas and Pumas should also offer some resistance, especially when hosting other teams and will see this year’s competition as an opportunity to grasp with both hands and cause upset along the way.
To accommodate the congested period while the British and Irish Lions tour South Africa, matches will sometimes be played in the middle of the week. This year’s series will start on June 18 with a match between the Pumas and Lions in Mbombela.