How good has this year’s Currie Cup been?
How short, how sweet and how absolutely entertaining has the world’s oldest domestic rugby competition been.
It has been the cheekiest of surprises, at a time when some of us genuinely feared for its relevance in the future.
We have seen youngsters grab their chances to impress, while a few warhorses have also found comfort in a cup that is an heirloom to every rugby-loving South African home.
This thing still matters, and the playoff matches have confirmed that.
That pair of semi-finals was brilliant; ferociously fun and frenetic, but unfailingly fair and sincere.
Play that stuff every week, and the masses will find the motivation to trek to Newlands, to Kings Park, to Loftus and to the graveyards of reputations; Griquas, Nelson Mandela Bay and little grounds with big helpings of spirit.
Long may the common sense approach in organising these annual events last, because we all know just how long they can drag on for.
They can still go one further, and take a leaf from the UK book, where clubs play to intimate, but packed venues like The Stoop, Newcastle’s Kingston Park and Exeter’s fortress, Sandy Park.
A crowd of 15 000 people crammed in can create a greater atmosphere than the same number spread across a 60 000 behemoth.
Take this vibe back to the club grounds every now and then, and see the beautiful carnage that will erupt.
A look at the exhausting Super Rugby campaign, with its confusing and relentless schedule, will tell you that you can get too much of a good thing. At that point, it actually becomes a stale thing.
Sure, there is still priceless experiences gained from the Antipodean road-trips that South African franchises embark on, but they take away from elsewhere.
Playing round-robin fixtures at iconic Test venues tends to erode the sanctity of going to Auckland, Dunedin and Sydney when it is Test week.
That still needs to remain special, a sure-fire bucket list moment.
Rugby needs that. Sport needs that, and so do the young men who turn up, wide-eyed and ready to run through brick walls for the teams they dream of playing for.
You saw how much the Currie Cup meant for all involved when the Blue Bulls were pipped by Western Province.
There were tears; delightful, man tears that encapsulated what this is all about.
The Currie Cup matters, and that is a wonderful thing to be able to say. Let us never take it for granted.@whamzam17