It is a debate that has been raging for a good 10 or 15 years now, should the Currie Cup include all 14 unions, or just the so-called big 5/6?
There are interesting times ahead in SA Rugby in the next few weeks with the announcement of the Australian Super rugby franchise.
Hoskins and Co are pretty positive in their belief that they have a great chance to outbid the Melbourne franchise and be awarded the very lucrative deal in their bid as the Southern Kings.
More interesting for me however would be the impact Super rugby, whether the Kings win the bid or not, will have on the oldest domestic competition in the world, the Currie Cup.
If the Kings do get the franchise there will be a massive push to include them in the local competition in 2010 to prepare them for the rigours of Super rugby set to kick off with the new 15-team format in 2011. Should they not get it you can be sure there will still be a massive push to include them in something given the history of the region and the pressure on SA Rugby to assist them in getting some form of professional setup going, which in all probability will mean inclusion in the Currie Cup in 2010 in the very least.
Currently the Currie Cup runs as an 8-team premier league, and a 6-team first division league with the top 2 teams in the premier league involved in a promotion relegation battle with the 2 bottom premier league teams.
Last year saw the Leopards take the place of the hapless Valke in the premier division when they won their promotion/relegation play-off against the then premier division Valke.
Subsequently, the Valke has lost every single game since their demotion in the ‘weaker’ first division league. Mainly because they lost just about all their players, coaches and sponsors. It is a massive fall from grace and highlights the huge problem we sit with in SA Rugby.
In addition, the promoted Leopards has only managed one win so far in the premier division and that was against bottom of the log Boland who has occupied one of the bottom two spots in the premier division since the current competition structure was implemented.
Simply given the obvious results anyone can make a very strong case for Currie Cup rugby to reduce the numbers in the premier division from 8 to 6 where there will be a greater emphasis on strength-vs-strength in the premier division of the competition.
The benefits of this is obvious but no more so than for the money men who know that a strength-vs-strength format means more people through the gates, and more viewers on the tube.
But is this beneficial to SA Rugby in the long run?
If the new Super rugby competition has the expected influence on the Currie Cup and how the competition will be structured, you can prepare yourself for an almighty battle from the smaller unions, who by the way makes up the majority of the President’s Council (the body that control most decision making in SA Rugby).
Personally I think a smaller premier division group (strength-vs-strength), or even a split in how the local competition is structured in a premier and first division to whichever numbers, is not healthy for South African rugby.
There are reasons the current big 5 are in the positions they are, they have money. More importantly, that money was mainly generated through their entrenchment in the very lucrative Super rugby competition for more than 10 years now.
Of course the argument will be that it is useless to have a Bulls play against a Border and score 100+ points against them in a league match, and that a strength-vs-strength format will be much better for the game, even if it means that Border has to play against a first division team rather than a premier division team because they are more on par – but we then also have to ask ourselves why we cannot get a Border, or Boland or Valke to start competing at the level of a Bulls, Sharks or WP?
There is no shortage of player numbers in South Africa to sustain a 14-team competition, hell a country like New Zealand does this successfully and they do not even have a quarter of the playing numbers we have.
So it has to come down to how these unions are administered and the finances they generate.
Of course most will highlight the historical cases of corruption and gross mismanagement in most of these smaller unions, but that can be sorted out through proper management and implementation of structures from SA Rugby – if Griquas could do it, so could any other small union.
There has been many suggestions on what we could look to do in South African rugby to improve structures and distribute the wealth of our rugby evenly throughout the 14 provinces. The question now remains whether it should be done or not?
I believe it should, because just as the political history in South Africa will show you, control by a small minority, no matter how successful or beneficial to those in power, means nothing for the development and growth of the country itself, or the nation. Our strength lies in our numbers, and for as long as the minority controls the power and money in SA Rugby, we will never realise our full potential.Tweet