JOHANNESBURG - Some of South African rugby’s most prominent Currie Cup stars have given the new-look competition the big thumbs up ahead of the 2018 kick-off this weekend.
The oldest domestic rugby competition in the world will be played over just one round by seven teams in a tight fixture-list. Players who attended the launch of the competition in Randburg on Tuesday expressed their excitement that there would no longer be room for any slip-ups.
Springbok fullback Andries Coetzee, who will be one of the Lions’ key players in the coming weeks, said the shorter version of the competition would keep fans engaged from the start. “I’m excited for it ... it will keep the fans involved in the competition. They know they can’t wait for the second round. It’s going to be on from the get-go, so I think it’s the perfect platform,” said Coetzee.
Western Province centre EW Viljoen, whose team are chasing back to back title wins, said he didn’t quite know what to expect of the shortened format, but was nevertheless excited. “Every game is going to be tough. There’s no room for slip-ups ... you can’t afford any hiccups, otherwise you’re going to have to win games with bonus points later on to maybe just make the playoffs.”
Sharks and Springbok flier S’bu Nkosi, who is recovering from an injury at the moment, also voiced his excitement at the one-round competition, which will be contested over just eight weekends.
“It makes it exciting ... you know you’re going to be two matches in and you’re pretty much into playoffs mode," he said. “Everyone is going to have something to lose and gain, each weekend. I think the teams will inevitably play at a higher tempo and be more focused ... you’re only going to have one chance against each team.”
Nkosi, who became something of a household name in last year’s competition, said the Currie Cup was the perfect competition for youngsters to showcase their skills. “The Currie Cup is the big stage, and it mustn’t be taken for granted, especially by the youngsters. They need to go out there and grab the bull by the horns; do their best, and before long the whole country will be talking about them. This is the place where you can go and show that you have what it takes to progress to the next level.”
Coetzee, who has missed out on Springbok selection this year, agreed with Nkosi that the Currie Cup is the ideal platform for the youngsters to grab their opportunity. “The younger guys must put up their hands ... it’s the perfect platform for them to showcase their talent, to show they should be considered for the Super Rugby squad next year.”
The 2018 edition gets underway this weekend with two matches on Friday - in Nelspruit the Pumas host Griquas at 5pm, while at 7pm Free State entertain the Blue Bulls in Bloemfontein.