Bulls putting the Currie Cup back where it belongs?
August 6, 2013 in Uncategorized
Since Super Rugby employed the conference system and the competition’s time span was extended to the start of August, we saw a significant decline in the importance of the Currie Cup. With international players not participating for the majority of the competition, the Currie Cup was seen as a development competition with Super Rugby the main prize. The competition’s latter stages also differed from the start because of the return of the Springboks after the Rugby Championship.
Some teams, like the Bulls, also employs a different head coach during the Currie Cup.
For a team like WP, the return of the Springboks payed dividends because while the young guys kept them in touch, the returning Boks helped them finish the season as champions. The experience gained in the Currie Cup by the young Province players was evident in this year’s S15 when many of these players performed well when the incumbents got injured. But they contested the semi final at Ellispark and traveled to Durban for the final. So, while they reaped the benefits of their player development they lost out on huge financial windfalls that comes with hosting the semi finals and the final. While they could count on their team qualifying for a home semi final in the following S15, this year it didn’t happen.
It’s a lot harder to earn a home playoff match in the Super 15 than it is to host a Currie Cup playoff, but the gate takings are the same.
The Bulls are in the process of signing quite a number of players from the Kings and I’m sure that their hosting of a S15 semi this year had something to do with that. Even with the lowest attendance for a playoff match in years, the Bulls still made somewhere between 8 and 10 million Rands for hosting this year’s semi. That’s more than what the Stormers paid for the loan players they had from the Lions.
A player like Waylon Murrey won’t be making the Bok team on current form, but he’ll be a decent center at Currie Cup level with both JJ and Serfontein likely to be either injured or playing in the Rugby Championship. Vleis Engelbrecht will also fill the void left by Pierre Spies and Arno Botha’s injuries. Maku has been part of the Bulls for a long time and will be a welcome substitute for Ralapele.
Some might say that these players are keeping young Bulls players out of the team and halting player development. But this is not necessarily true. Of all these players, Maku may have the easier task of challenging for a starting place as he already is a seasoned campaigner at the Bulls and Wepener has not inspired confidence in the position. There’s no way that a fit and inform Venter, Engelbrecht and Serfontein will be replaced by Murrey, but with injuries inevitable, the Bulls will benefit from having him on their books.
Engelbrecht will have a hard time making the side with Spies as captain, but at loose forward it’s much easier to give more players opportunities because you have the freedom of three positions that a player can fill.
I am very excited about the Bulls’ latest acquisitions. This will give them a good and experienced team for the Currie Cup as well as great depth for the coming Super Rugby season. These players will also not hamper the development of their host of junior players because there are enough opportunities for these players anyway.
The game has changed. Previously the Bulls were able to get a decent Vodacom Cup side, promoting these players to a victorious Currie Cup side and finally building a successful Super Rugby side. With the extended absence of the Boks during the Currie Cup season and the growing need for an extended squad to cope with a grueling Super Rugby season, I think the Bulls are right on the money with their purchases at the end of this year’s Super Rugby season. It will also enable them to cope with the exodus of players they have suffered.