Our own worst enemy

Written by Morné Nortier (Morné)

Posted in :Original Content on 6 Oct 2009 at 08:40

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.


  • what about have a cc with the top 5, southern kings and royal 15, they seemed quite competitive against the b & i lions

  • Comment 1, posted at 06.10.09 08:50:16 by willa Reply
  • @willa (Comment 1) : Willa makes a good point. I don’t believe we have the quality to sustain a 14-team Currie Cup, but a ten-team competition is probably far more doable, if we have some sensible consolidation.

    Combine Boland and SWD, EP and Border, Free State and the Griffons (since they behave like an A and B team anyway)and the Pumas and Valke.

    Then you’ll have the following ten teams:
    1) Sharks (KZN)
    2) Western Province (Cape Peninsula)
    3) South Western Cape
    4) Southern Kings (Eastern Cape)
    5) Cheetahs (Free State)
    6) Blue Bulls (Tshwane)
    7) Lions (Central Gauteng)
    8) North East (Eastern Gauteng and Mpumulanga)
    9) Royals (North West Province)
    10) Griquas (Northern Cape)

  • Comment 2, posted at 06.10.09 09:15:42 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • i agree. we will have the super 15 as the strength vs strength comp where the top five/6 will play eachother in a round robin system. so what is the point of repeating it again in the currie cup. i think we should use the vodacom cup to prepare youngsters and smaller unions for a 15 team cc. the boks are out for most the cc, so why not keep them out for the whole tournie. this will then even the teams out a little more.

    my only concern is that 15 teams may be too many. i would like a few unions to merge to firstly strengthen their squad and secondly to make the tournie more interesting. limited games must be televised forcing bums back into the stadiums, and games need to be played at other stadia around the country. currie cup is about breeding the boks of tomorrow and recently we have been creating a huge gap between the amateurs and the few professionals. lets expand our pool of talent again, it can only benefit sa rugby.

  • Comment 3, posted at 06.10.09 09:17:58 by try time Reply

  • @robdylan (Comment 2) : yeah good thinking. it does make more sense. but we do need to keep our talent depth gamefit.

  • Comment 4, posted at 06.10.09 09:20:31 by try time Reply

  • @try time (Comment 4) : so, here’s a challenge. Name ten Currie Cup quality players in each position.

  • Comment 5, posted at 06.10.09 09:44:57 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 5) : isn’t that more reason to create a stronger currie cup comp. no-one said the first few years would be pretty, but it is a sacrifice for the future depth in our country. we have a serious shortage of players in many positions and the lack of quality game time doesn’t help matters. look at the current front row shortage. props and hookers aren’t made overnight. so we need to give these guys the game time in a quality comp to get the experience and strength to start pressuring the top guys. the s15 is going to make another round robin with the top teams in a season a snore, so lets rather look the cc as the development of stars tournament. we will then have a better pool of players to play in the gruelling s15 and more players to fight for bok spots.

  • Comment 6, posted at 06.10.09 09:55:37 by try time Reply

  • @robdylan (Comment 2) :

    Here is another suggesstion…

    South Africa has 6 major regions where rugby is concerned.

    The Western Cape (currently Stormers), the Southern and Eastern Cape (currently Kings), the Central and Northern Districts (Cheetahs), the East Coast (Sharks), the Gauteng midlands and South Eastern Gauteng (currently Lions), and the Northern Gauteng and North West Province (currently Bulls).

    These 6 regions represents all 14 union members currently under the SA Rugby flag. However, where we totally missed the boat in my view was to marry each of these regions, or franchises, to a central province in each of those regions.

    The net effect was that the 5 major provinces enriched themselves through the lucrative deals and benefits Super rugby brings, BUT at the expense of the smaller unions who has no hope in hell to ensure growth and development and self-sustainability in competing with the traditional Big 5.

    This effectively ensured that we created a bottle-neck effect in South African rugby, where close to ½ million rugby players can only develop successfully into top class professional players, through 5 unions only. You do not need to be Einstein to spot the problem here.

    The only way to effectively de-centralize this current structure, is to have the 6 franchises operate completely independently from any one union, but actually act as the mini-SA Rugby of each of the regions (and unions) it represents.

    These franchises should be privately owned and managed under the guidance and partnership (stakeholder) of SA Rugby and obviously still conform to the constitution and unionized rules of the National Governing Body (SA Rugby/SARU).

    The unions of each region will be commercially managed by each franchise of the region, where the responsibilities of development, structures, transformation, etc. all now becomes part of the franchise’s direct responsibility and that of their board of directors.

    The main aim of each independent, and privately owned franchise will always be;

    a) To ensure they make a profit, and
    b) To ensure a winning brand and culture is created in their franchise, feeder unions and lower structures of clubs and schools

  • Comment 7, posted at 06.10.09 09:56:46 by Morné Reply
  • we don’t need the boks in the cc. we know they play well, so give them the time off they need. lets get the rest of the depth stronger. as we have seen in recent years the bok bench isn’t as strong as the starting line up and this should be a concern. a ten team cc will be a bit like the english premiership soccer. there will be a top tier, and you’ll have the bottom teams. the bottom teams will never win the trophy, but they do unearth future stars. and for fringe players in the country it gives them a little more reason to keep playing the game.

  • Comment 8, posted at 06.10.09 10:01:35 by try time Reply

  • @try time (Comment 3) :

    currie cup is about breeding the boks

    That role has long gone to Super rugby, not Currie Cup rugby anymore.

  • Comment 9, posted at 06.10.09 10:07:01 by Morné Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 7) : on this issue, to ensure the smaller unions have a chance in the currie cup the top 60 players in the country have to be contracted by sa rugby. obviously the unions that created this talent get remunerated fairly and have first option on the player. but sa rugby will limit players by position from going to a specific union. so if the bulls academy has a great prop development programme no point in the bulls having the top four props in the country sitting on their bench. so the bulls will choose the prop they want and the rest get time in the smaller union’s teams sharing knowledge and skill. but as long as we stay in the current struture we aren’t going to improve.

  • Comment 10, posted at 06.10.09 10:22:22 by try time Reply

  • @Morné (Comment 9) : so you reckon Lionel Mapoe and Juan de Jongh ain’t gonna make the end of year tour? 🙂

  • Comment 11, posted at 06.10.09 10:24:22 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • @try time (Comment 10) :

    I believe we need a NDOR (National Director of Rugby).

    SA Rugby needs to adopt a structure of micro-management where they should oversee the professional management of all these levels of rugby mentioned.

    To do this SA Rugby needs to appoint a NDOR or group/panel to manage the national, and international arms of rugby in South Africa, or for a better word, nationally contracted players and coaches. This would include all the Springbok age-group level teams, coaches and players, as well as the management of the Super rugby franchises and coaches.

    Effectively, this will or should mean that all our national players at all levels, as well as our Super rugby elite players (which will be part of this pool of national players), will be centrally contracted to SA Rugby through its direct channels and commercial arm, as well as a two-tier contract system for players not on a national contract but part of the Super rugby elite player pool.

    Crucial in the sustainability of this plan however will be the independence of the Super rugby franchise from any major union in South African rugby.

  • Comment 12, posted at 06.10.09 10:25:44 by Morné Reply
  • @robdylan (Comment 11) :

    Will they be selected purely on CC form? 😉

    Dont answer that. I like both players, but they have proven nothing until they run out in a Super rugby match.

  • Comment 13, posted at 06.10.09 10:28:03 by Morné Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 9) : that is the problem. a bok team trying to get players from 5 teams. now with 30 boks excluded from a currie cup system that has ten teams. you now have 250+ extra players with potentual. the best of these then get sucked into the 5 super 15 franchises for further development and then they can have a go at the spot of the top 30. we have far too many good players sitting on the bench in this country. it is time we got them playing so that we have them ready during an injury crisis.

  • Comment 14, posted at 06.10.09 10:28:26 by try time Reply

  • @Morné (Comment 12) : that’s a more structured way of putting what i was saying. but we agree we have to take the top players away from union control and put them in a central pool that then gets drawn on from all the unions. we then also take those players away from poor management of unions. look at the talent the lions and cheetahs waste due to poor administration. look how many talented players sit on the sharks and bull’s benches.

  • Comment 15, posted at 06.10.09 10:35:42 by try time Reply

  • @try time (Comment 14) :

    Correct, our 150 elite players (read Super rugby and Bok players) need to be more effectively managed.

  • Comment 16, posted at 06.10.09 10:36:34 by Morné Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 13) : you know they will. I don’t agree with it, but it’s all a timing issue. Nobody can remember who the form fringe players were in the Super 14.

  • Comment 17, posted at 06.10.09 10:52:45 by robdylan Reply
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  • @Morné (Comment 16) : hallelujah. amen. unfortunately it means bruised ego’s and it probably will not happen in our lifetime.

  • Comment 18, posted at 06.10.09 10:53:47 by try time Reply

  • @try time (Comment 18) :

    I plan to run for president in a couple of years time 😉

  • Comment 19, posted at 06.10.09 10:58:35 by Morné Reply
  • @robdylan (Comment 17) :


  • Comment 20, posted at 06.10.09 10:58:51 by Morné Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 19) : you have my vote. pity it counts for nothing. but a bigger cc could help sa rugby with the issue that is verbode on this site. this can only help the sport. development of future stars that currently lose interest due to limited opportunities.

  • Comment 21, posted at 06.10.09 11:05:12 by try time Reply

  • @Morné (Comment 19) :

    I’ll vote for you if I can have a job in your cabinet! 😆

  • Comment 22, posted at 06.10.09 11:26:07 by GI Ice Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • We’ve all been complaining that we’re not seeing enough quality players coming up from the bottom…so yeah…maybe we should leave the Boks out of the Currie Cup.

    I wonder how it feels for Sharks/ Bulls players to START the CC knowing that the Boks will return and take their places in the SEMI/ FINAL. I doubt it’s a good feeling though…

  • Comment 23, posted at 06.10.09 12:15:18 by blackshark Reply

    blackshark - I'm back!
  • @blackshark (Comment 23) :

    yeah – especially if you take what a good job the Sharks did without them…

  • Comment 24, posted at 06.10.09 12:20:36 by GI Ice Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • @GI Ice (Comment 24) :


  • Comment 25, posted at 06.10.09 12:24:33 by Morné Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 25) :

    Wat giggel jy??

  • Comment 26, posted at 06.10.09 12:30:44 by GI Ice Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • also imagine the feeling of a player playing his heart out, knowing he is being watched by the bok whose position he is playing in. and knowing that that bok can’t take his place away until next season. that must be a good feeling. and on top of that you have time to muscle your way into the super squad. and for the bok he gets his holiday that he loses out on because he has to go on the year end tour. it is a win win.

  • Comment 27, posted at 06.10.09 12:32:46 by try time Reply

  • @GI Ice (Comment 26) :

    The fact that most realise now that the Boks return not only lifts the teams they are returning too, but also the ones they now come up against!!!

    @try time (Comment 27) :

    Imagine how Monty Dumond is feeling now. Hit great form in the last couple of games he started, and then it all changed…

  • Comment 28, posted at 06.10.09 12:34:37 by Morné Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 28) :

    I dont think they did..actually..

  • Comment 29, posted at 06.10.09 12:37:12 by GI Ice Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • @Morné (Comment 28) : yeah he is a prime example. the guy finally proved his worth after a shakey super 14, then as he proves his worth he is given splinters again. and he’ll have to clear out all the rust again when he is called up.

  • Comment 30, posted at 06.10.09 12:39:10 by try time Reply


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