DURBAN – It is unfortunate, and factually true, that the Currie Cup is a mere shadow of its former self.
Once the proud decider of which province in the land was top of the rugby tree, it has diluted its competitive mark.
But, that does not mean that the baby should be thrown out with the bathwater. Rather, the Currie Cup should be viewed on its merits and what it can do for South African rugby, the unions, but most importantly, the players.
So, while we are seeing the once mighty heartland of South African rugby, the Free State, in a battle to stay in the Currie Cup due to extenuating circumstances, and that is sad, we are also seeing a new wave of young talent that could well be propping up Super Rugby next year, and not long after, even the Springboks.
The Currie Cup has become much more of a stepping stone for firstly young players to take the jump to senior rugby, as well as potential stars to cut their teeth in competitive rugby.
So, the question that needs to be asked at the conclusion of today’s final is not whether Western Province or the Sharks are South Africa’s powerhouse provinces, but rather, did the competition unearth some future stars?
Looking at the finalists, there is no doubt that some of the players who made their name this season from the two coastal sides will only grow from strength to strength.
At the Sharks, Aphelele Fassi is a name that everyone now knows, and wants to see more of.
The young Dale High pupil has impressed with some jinking runs, but really grabbed the spotlight when he chased down Bok star Aphiwe Dyantyi in a flat sprint like it was nothing in the semi-final.
This weekend's @TheCurrieCup semi-final saw a chase down for the ages, when #OurSharks young flyer, @onke_fassi reeled in @Springboks flyer Aphiwe Dyantyi from behind!🏃
Re-live the moment here, and see what goes through a player's mind in these situations.💭#OurSharksForever pic.twitter.com/iqD7PGqEPj
For Province, there are a few South African junior stars that are waiting to make that next big leap up.
The likes of Salmaan Moerat and Jaco Coetzee have been steadily building their own reputation after showing all the potential they have with the Baby Boks over the last few years.
Lions No 8 Hacjivah Dayimani is another one that looks destined for greatness after he played a blinder of a game against Griquas, in which he scored two tries.
Dayimani is built for the future of rugby; he can run the 100m in 10.68 seconds, has a good rugby brain and looks for space rather than contact.
For the Bulls, there is the mercurial Manie Libbok, who was also a Baby Bok star that is now showing that the senior stage is not too much for him as he plays with the same freedom and excitement that he always has.
Libbok was also the mastermind behind the Bulls’ nearly-moment against Province in their semi-final.
Time will of course tell where these superstars in the making end up, and if they do indeed make it big, but everyone has to start somewhere and the Currie Cup is that place now.
The competition is still fierce enough to be a testing ground, but the stakes are probably lower – and maybe, just maybe, that’s not a bad thing for all this precocious talent around.