CAPE TOWN – Western Province’s stunning Currie Cup form is great for the “watered-down” competition, but it’s even better for the union.
Amid all the troubles that the Western Province Rugby Union have had to fend off this year, the form that John Dobson’s team has shown in the 2018 competition has by far been the most positive headline-worthy aspect associated with the union in recent months.
While speaking on SuperSport’s rugby show Phaka on Tuesday evening, WPRU president Thelo Wakefield said that “journalists are fond of writing negative stories about Western Province. We have counted - we have over 4 200 negative stories about WP. It is now time for good-news stories.”
But it’s not like somebody just decided to pluck those “negative stories” out of thin air while strolling down Boundary Road.
All of those stories had an origin.
Besides financial woes and the Stormers’ Super Rugby disaster, there was also a coaching-team divide - a matter Wakefield on Tuesday said is being investigated by a professional from Bowman Gilfillan.
There was also the leaked player list containing the names of 19 players the union were willing to loan to other teams - a move that was later explained to have been aimed at giving fringe players an opportunity to get some game time with other teams.
And then there were the reports surrounding the selling of Newlands and a possible move to the more state-of-the-art Cape Town Stadium.
Although those reports were initially denied, Wakefield insisted that Newlands and its properties will not be sold, and admitted that a move to Cape Town Stadium is imminent.
“It is a fact that we will move across to the Cape Town Stadium. The process is such that I have signed a heads of agreement with the City Council; the City has appointed a commission to investigate the matter of rugby coming to Cape Town Stadium,” Wakefield said when answering one of Phaka anchor Kaunda Ntunja’s questions.
“A full council meeting will be held at the end of October. At that meeting the City will say it’s either yes for Western Province, or no. If it is yes, we will move to the stadium for many reasons. First, we don’t need to maintain Newlands any more, second it (Cape Town Stadium) is world-class, thirdly it is a modern stadium, and professional rugby players demand that.
“We will develop Newlands into a business entity: we are consulting with various developers at present. It will still be the property of WP Rugby. The Stormers and the Western Province Currie Cup side will play at Cape Town Stadium, but not next year.
It could be the year after that. It would have been 2020, but with the City Council dragging their feet we will now be looking at 2021 to move there, but we will not sell Newlands.”
So, if you look at all that, Province’s Currie Cup run is certainly something that should be celebrated.
While it’s not over; they still have three games remaining (against Griquas, 2017 finalists, the Sharks and Blue Bulls), the way they have gone about their business until now has been seriously impressive.
It isn’t too hard to find criticism directed towards the age-old competition, and the shorter format - which sees teams play each other either home or away - hasn’t done a lot to ensure that some enthusiasm returns to the domestic contest. So given the pressure thanks to the format, all the good that WP did against the Free State Cheetahs, Pumas and Lions can be nullified if they do, for some reason, fail to fire in their next three games.
That can happen, though it seems unlikely. But, on the other hand, they can also continue on the same path they’ve taken until round five.
Even if you factored out everything that’s happened in the Cape this year, WP’s form would still be impressive. Very impressive.
But imagine what a feat it would be if they manage to successfully defend the Currie Cup trophy? And if their recent performances are anything to go by, that prospect doesn’t seem too far-fetched.