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Johannesburg – The Currie Cup will feature an eight-team premier division and a new qualification round, following the decision to expand the top flight competition, the SA Rugby Union (Saru) announced on Thursday.
A special general council meeting of the 14 member unions gave the required 75 percent majority to a resolution to expand from a six to eight-team premier division and six-team first division for the 2014 and 2015 seasons.
The new structure will ensure the six anchor unions of South Africa’s Super Rugby franchises Ä the Blue Bulls, Sharks, Western Province, Free State Cheetahs, Golden Lions and EP Kings Ä are guaranteed their places in the Currie Cup for the next two seasons.
The meeting also approved a resolution to do away with the Super Rugby promotion and relegation mechanism, effectively entrenching the current five franchises for the 2015 season.
“It has been a thorough process with several false starts but we have reached a decision which is ultimately good for all our members and South African rugby,” Saru president Oregan Hoskins said in a statement.
“It ensures all 14 provinces have an opportunity to play in the Currie Cup premier division while ensuring that our Super Rugby franchises have a stable environment in which to prepare.”
This year's Currie Cup will consist of six anchor unions teams, the Pumas, who were promoted in 2013 and the winner of the new qualifying round.
The qualifying round will be played after the Vodacom Cup final during June and July.
The teams will be divided into two sections according to their log positions in the 2013 competition.
They will play home and away within their sections followed by a single cross-conference round before the semi-finals and final.
The qualifying competition will be contested by Griqualand West, Leopards, SWD Eagles, Boland Cavaliers, Griffons, Border Bulldogs and Valke.
The teams will play a single round, with each team playing three home and three away matches.
The 2015 Currie Cup premier division will consist of the six franchise teams and two non-franchise teams.
Should the two non-franchise teams finish seventh and eighth in the 2014 competition, they will both play in a 2015 qualification round of eight teams.
If one non-franchise team finishes in the top six in 2014, they will automatically qualify for the next year.
The other non-franchise team will play in a 2015 qualifying round of seven teams.
In the case of both non-franchise teams finishing in the top six of the 2014 Currie Cup, they will automatically qualify for the 2015 tournament and there will be no qualifying tournament in 2015.
“The creation of the new qualifying competition also fills a space in the middle of the rugby season for our non-franchise teams that stretched between the end of the Vodacom Cup in mid-May and the start of the Currie Cup at the end of June,” Hoskins said.
“It also addresses the anomaly that we have been driving hard for a number of years for the Kings’ inclusion in Super Rugby and yet we do not have a place for them in our premier domestic competition.”
Hoskins said the decision was in the interests of rugby which ensured two non-franchise teams a place in the premier division.
“It allows the Kings to prepare for Super Rugby inclusion in 2016 in the top tier of our domestic competition and it removes the uncertainty of relegation from the teams currently playing in Super Rugby,” he said. – Sapa