High pressure created by new Currie Cup format
Gavin Rich
August 09, 2018

The inception of a new Currie Cup format that will be completed over just one round will reduce the number of irrelevant games and ratchet up the pressure faced by the coaches and teams contesting South Africa’s oldest rugby competition.

In seasons past it was possible for top teams to drop games to country unions like Griquas or the Pumas and still recover. The double round made it possible. But John Dobson, coach of the reigning champion Western Province team, reckons the intensity is going to be much greater now that the competition has been reduced to one round.

“There will be much more pressure now. Before you could go up to Johannesburg and lose to the Lions and then say we will see you at Newlands,” said Dobson.

“Last year we lost to both Griquas and the Pumas away and still clinched a home semifinal. That is not going to be possible this year with the teams playing so few games. The way I see it you cannot afford to drop more than one game if you want to host a semifinal and you probably have to go unbeaten if you want to host the final.

“The pressure is going to be much more this year and because everyone is struggling financially everyone needs to host the final.”

Judging from what he said at a press briefing before his team’s departure for France ahead of a two match pre-Currie Cup tour that features two matches - against Montpellier and Narbonne - Dobson is not a great fan of the single round competition.

“Obviously the single round, which we are told is a one-off, is part of the ongoing hammering of nails into the coffin of the Currie Cup,” said Dobson.


While the new format is arguably better for fans, who are fed a diet of too much rugby which also means too many games that don’t have much relevance, there is some justification for Dobson’s negativity in terms of the unfairness that creeps in when teams don’t play each other both home and away.

“The draw is tough on us,” explained Dobson. “In the five years that I have been coaching the Currie Cup we have played to five different formats. That obviously undermines the integrity of the competition, as we have seen to a lesser extent with Super Rugby.

“In the years when we haven’t played every team twice, we have only played the Lions away, which is the case again this year. We also play the Bulls away. It is tough having to play both the two big altitude teams away. We also play the Cheetahs, who are our first opponents, while they still have their PRO14 players.”

It will be a tough ask, but Dobson does have a squad that looks equipped to fulfil the task of retaining the Currie Cup trophy won in Durban last year. There is a core of experienced Super Rugby players available to Dobson at this point, plus some prodigiously talented youngsters.

Lock in particular is an area of depth for WP, and Dobson confirmed that while he will lead the squad again this year, last season’s Currie Cup winning captain Chris van Zyl won’t necessarily play every game.


“Chris is the leader of the group. We are in the fortunate position of being able to say that barring injuries virtually everyone who plays Currie Cup would have played Super Rugby. The traumas experienced by the Stormers in Super Rugby (lots of injuries early on) perhaps helped by increasing the experience of our squad and giving players high level opportunities.

“Even young players like flyhalf Josh Stander and Johan du Toit (flank) will have had their confidence boosted by getting a chance to play and doing well towards the end of the competition. Someone like Cobus Wiese came through really well in Super Rugby and will be a key player for us.

“The one area where we may be thin is at flyhalf, particularly if, as we hope, Damian (Willemse) stays with the Boks, and we are also unsure about Jean-Luc (du Plessis, who continues to be troubled by his groin problem). But there will be players released from the Boks later on and this year quite a bit of the Currie Cup will be played after the end of the Rugby Championship. We will probably see both an increase in interest and quality at that point, as is often the case.”

WP have a bye in the first week of the Currie Cup which is why they are able to travel to France while all the other competing teams are preparing for the opening matches of their campaigns.

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