Thursday 8 August 2013

Currie Cup: A Beginner's point of view

I'll admit, I've never watched Currie Cup rugby before. It's a back competition in South Africa, much like the ITM Cup in New Zealand, featuring regional teams, very similar to the Super sides. It is seen as a premier breeding ground for new talent to emerge in South Africa's ranks.

I will be previewing and reviewing the competition, from a first timer's point of view every week.


The competition has two divisions; a Premier Division of 6 teams, and a First Division of 8. It's a round-robin format, with all teams in each Division playing their Divisional rivals both home and away. The top four teams in each division enter into a playoff to determine the winners of that Division. The bottom team in the Premier divison faces a relegation playoff with the winners of the First Division.

First Division

Western Province are the defending Premier Division champions, they make up the majority of what Super Rugby followers know as the "DHL Stormers", with a few additions. They will have a large number of Springbok absentees for the majority of the competition, with Eben Etzebeth, Jean de Villiers, Juan de Jongh and Duane Vermeulen absent, the leadership will be left to the likes of Deon Fourie, Gio Aplon and DeKock Steenkamp. Demetri Catrakilis, who starred for the Southern Kings in Super Rugby, will be one to watch.

Irish interest will centre on Munster's new signing Gerhard van den Heever, who starts on Saturday in their opening game against the Blue Bulls, while Cheslin Kolbe, who excited many at the Junior World Championships, and Gio Aplon make up the exciting back three.

Western Province will be one of the strongest teams, with young Springbok prop Pat Cilliers on the bench this Saturday emphasising their strength in depth while their current Springboks are away.

Key player: Deon Fourie
One to Watch: Cheslin Kolbe

Free State Cheetahs finished last in last season's competition, and only remain in the competition by virtue of winning the promotion/relegation fixture against the Eastern Province. Their Super Rugby counterparts (along with the Griquas) has their best ever campaign, dazzling audiences and finishing in the playoff positions.

They will be without Springboks Coenie Oosthuizen, Adriaan Strauss, and Trevor Nyakane, but some Cheetahs stars in Lood de Jager, Lappies Labuschagne, Philip van der Walt, Sarel Pretorius, Piet van Zyl, Robert Ebersohn and Raymond Rhule.

Former Munster prop Wian du Preez, and former Connacht hooker Ethienne Reynecke also feature in the squad, who will look to mount a strong challenge.

Key player: Robert Ebersohn
One to Watch: Raymond Rhule

Natal Sharks, last years finalists, will hope to go one better this year. The Sharks also had a terrible Super Rugby campaign and could be suffering. Only lock Pieter Steph du Toit came out with his reputation enhanced.

They are shorn their front row of the du Plessis's brothers and the Beast, while also losing Pat Lambie, Marcel Coetzee and Willem Alberts.

However, the likes of Lous Ludik, Lwavi Mvovo, world cup winning outhalf Butch James, Charl McLoed, Keegan Daniel and Jean Deysel remain, while some of their Super players like Craig Burden and Cobus Reinach make the bench this weekend for their opener against the Griquas.

Key Player: Keegan Daniel
One To Watch: Tim Whitehead / Cobus Reinach

The Blue Bulls are going through a transition phase, as they are losing Juandre Kruger, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Dewald Potgieter, Jacques Potgieter, Morne Steyn, Jano Vermaak and Wynand Olivier, and that doesn't even include their Springbok representatives.

They still have the biggest depth, and are historically the most successful of the South African provinces. With Victor Matfield as forwards coach, and youngsters Handre Pollard and Tony Jantjies (brother of Elton) it will be interesting to see how they go, with next years Super Rugby in mind.

Key Player: Anyone left? Werner Kruger
One to Watch: Handre Pollard / Jurgen Visser

Golden Lions are fresh from winning the Vodacom Cup, South Africa's second tier competition during Super Rugby, and will be looking to mark their return to Super Rugby for 2014, with a strong showing here.

Strong performances from the likes of Elton Jantjies and Derek Minnie are central to their fortunes

Key Player: Derek Minnie
One to Watch: Martin Bezuidenhout

Griquas are almost definitely the weakest of the Premier Division teams, and will be without their sole star, Willie le Roux, while he is on Springbok duty.

Their fortunes weigh heavily on youngster Lourens Adriaanse, captain Ryno Barnes, centre JP Nel, Hilton Lobberts and Francois Bummer.

Key Player: Ryno Barnes
One to Watch: Lourens Adriaanse.

First Division:

The First Division features 8 teams; Leopards, Pumas, Border Bulldogs, Kings, Griffons, Boland Cavaliers, Eagles and the Falcons. The Kings are the champions from last year and will be the overwhelming favourites to repeat that feat.

The Kings feature the majority of the Super Rugby squad, with Schalk Ferraira, Steven Sykes and Sergeal Peterson there to ensure their favouritism. Their sole challenge is expected to come from the Pumas, for whom Shaun Venter had a great season from scrumhalf for the Southern Kings, and Demas shocked the British and Irish Lions 4 years ago for the Emerging Boks.

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