Finally we will get to see a proper Currie Cup again.
Regular readers of this column will know that I’ve been moaning for years about the now-stiefkind of South African rugby being diluted on an annual basis.
But after the South Africa Rugby Union (Saru) decided to pull the Springboks out of this year’s Rugby Championship, we will finally see the best of the best in SA playing “trials” on a weekly basis tot binne in die nuwe jaar.
Yes, I know we still have to get through Super Rugby Unlocked – with the franchise log points then being carried over when the Currie Cup kicks off, but allow me to celebrate the revival of the oldest domestic rugby tournament in the world.
Besides, I have much more love for the Western Province jersey than what I have for the franchise’s Stormers jumper – deal with it.
For those of you who don’t know, SA’s franchises currently play in a seven-round Unlocked tournament that will see the team finishing at the top of the log crowned champions. No semis and no final.
After that, Siya Kolisi and his Stormers teammates transform into WP (Jou Lekker Ding) in the Currie Cup which will then run into 2021, culminating in a proper knockout finale.
That’s a festival of South African rugby and I bet you’ll see a lot more surprises than the Cheetahs beating a star-studded Bulls team in Super Rugby Unlocked last weekend.
Yes, it might not be the best thing for the Springboks and the money men not to have the team play this year, but the national team will be so much richer because of it.
The reason for that is that up-and-coming players are now getting to rub shoulders with the big dogs in SA rugby.
Let’s take flanker Nama Xaba in the Mother City for example. We’ve seen him replacing captain Kolisi at the Stormers a few times this year already.
So by watching the national skipper, then trying to implement what he has seen in the same match and also adding his own flavour, Xaba will grow more this season than what he would have in possibly two years if the Boks didn’t play in the Currie Cup and he somehow didn’t make the cut for Super Rugby matchday squads.
This is one example of many around the country.
Not only will it be great for the next-in-liners, but we will undoubtedly see new stars coming to the fore – Sharks scrumhalf Sanele Nohamba is already the talk of the town and he hasn’t even played five matches post-lockdown yet.
As the season progresses, injuries will test the depths of teams and again we will see nuwe manne that might even outshine the big guns.
Here on our doorstep I can’t wait to see more of 19-year-old flyhalf Kade Wolhuter.
Tim Swiel is currently deputy to Damian Willemse, but from what I’ve seen of Wolhuter in the Green versus Gold tie, the No.10 jumper will fit him like a glove at some point this season. The same goes for 21-year-old wing Angelo Davids.
A great example of a stalwart getting injured while a youngster gets to learn from him is Pieter-Steph du Toit and Ernst van Rhyn, who wears the No.7 jumper in the absence of the world’s best player. Apart from the youngsters who should have breakthrough seasons against international opposition, we will also see some hidden gems – guys who have been around the block, but haven’t gotten the necessary exposure.
These manne will come from franchises like the Cheetahs, Griquas and the Pumas, players we didn’t get to see enough of against quality local opposition.
I remember seeing Faf de Klerk at the Pumas back in the day, thinking as die mannetjie net nie so klein was nie then he would have played some big rugby. The Lions took a chance and the rest is history.
Those three teams now not only have a Currie Cup later this year to compete against the best, but also Super Rugby Unlocked, giving the players a fair shot at proving their worth.
As we gear up for months of local rivals smashing into each other, I reckon there will be a number of bruised egos and bodies come the end of January next year.
But while it will be bad news for some, I can guarantee you that we will witness the birth of new stars in coming months.
And if there are Springboks who thought their place in the squad for next year’s visit from the
British and Irish Lions were already booked, I’d advise them to pull up their socks and show their worth.
The playing field has just been levelled.