DURBAN - There will be hardly a rugby fan in South Africa who has not witnessed the stunning and historic win in Wellington by the Springboks over old foes New Zealand. A Test match that had it all, topped off with the tears of Pieter-Steph du Toit to personify an incredible effort.
On the flipside, there will be a smattering of people who watched Western Province dismantle the Golden Lions at Ellis Park in a high-scoring Currie Cup affair on Saturday. It ended 65-38 there, but the bevvy of points speaks more of a competition that has become so benign that not even the players are bothering anymore.
It may be fun to watch Scarra Ntubeni give a wonder no-look, over the shoulder, pass to set up a try for Province, but these brief glimpses of exciting play can’t make up for a competition that used to be competitive.
The feeling now from the Currie Cup is one of true apathy. Fans’ voices echo around sparse grounds, provincial rivalries no longer exist, and even the players seem to be going through the motions. In that same game, SP Marais received a cross field kick out wide and had ample time and space to canter in for a try, jogging the last 20 metres. In fact, he didn’t even go down under the posts to make the kick easier.
Now, compare that to Aphiwe Dyantyi’s try where the wing rounded the All Black defence and sprinted for the middle of the in goal zone, even stepping Beauden Barrett to ensure an easy two points. Now imagine he hadn’t done that on Saturday.
The juxtaposition between the Currie Cup and that historic Test could not be more jarring. And it also speaks volumes of the state of rugby in SA. The Boks were able to get themselves up for the toughest challenge in rugby, but for 90 percent of their professional career, it is about going through the motions in watered down tournaments with too much rugby.
The following players have been released for CC duty: Ross Cronje (Xerox Golden Lions), Marco van Staden, Embrose Papier (Vodacom Blue Bulls), Thomas du Toit (Cell C Sharks), Wilco Louw, Bongi Mbonambi, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Damian Willemse (DHL Western Province).
It has been seen with the Sharks, who have a squad that is good enough to play Super Rugby, but are lethargic and complacent when facing a Free State Cheetahs side that have a host of novices and near amateurs. It is not an excuse for teams in the Currie Cup to under-perform, but when it is so much about quantity over quality, can you blame bored players?
SA has always prided itself on playing the best to be the best, but domestically, there is a lot wrong. There is talk from the SA Rugby bigwigs about a potential draft system, and that could be a way to go. But even then, there needs to be something that is honestly worth playing for at the end of the day.