New plan may oust EP Kings

Mark Alexander during day 2 of the SA Rugby Coaching Indaba at Southern Sun Newlands on October 20, 2016 in Cape Town, South Africa. Image by: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images
Mark Alexander
Picture: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images

Proposal to trim Currie Cup Premier Division to six teams up for discussion

Plans for a new strength versus strength Currie Cup Premier Division next season could leave the EP Kings sitting on the sidelines and relegated to the First Division. SA Rugby Union (Saru) bosses will gather in Cape Town on December 9 and one of the main items on the agenda is a proposal to slash the size of the Premier Division from nine to six teams next year.

With the national team struggling, there is a concerted move to make the Premier Division more appealing to fans and sponsors.

It is known that new Saru boss Mark Alexander is keen to boost the image of the game and a more competitive Currie Cup would be a major move forward.

Insiders say that if a revamp is successful, the Kings will no longer be guaranteed a berth in the Premier Division despite being the home of a Super Rugby franchise, as was the case last season.

The lack of Premier Division status would severely hamper efforts to create player and coaching continuity between the EP Kings and Southern Kings.

Last week, Springbok legend Joel Stransky called for the Southern Kings to be booted out of Super Rugby so that a winning culture could be developed in the South African game.

Stransky also wants the Cheetahs to be axed from Super Rugby in a radical shake-up to get the ailing Springboks back on track.

Because of the crippling cash crisis in EP Rugby there were doubts that the Kings would play in the Premier Division earlier this year, but they were included at the last minute after Saru came to their rescue.

With the team only gathering days before their opening match, it was not surprising that they struggled to make an impact.

They lost all eight matches they played and finished bottom of the log, conceding 379 points and leaking a massive 59 tries.

There is talk that next year’s Premier Division will comprise the six best-placed teams in last season’s competition. That would leave the Cheetahs, Bulls, Golden Lions, Western Province, the Sharks and Griquas fighting for the coveted trophy.

Insiders say a plan for a seven-team league might also be mooted, which would see Boland included.

It is believed the proposal would like to see the winners of the First Division playing against the bottom team in the Premier Division in a promotion/relegation match at the end of the season.

There are no plans to tamper with the Currie Cup provincial competition, which is played before the Currie Cup.

This will serve the same purpose as the old Vodacom Cup and will include all 14 provincial unions and the Namibian Welwitschias.

Last season, it was known as the Currie Cup qualifying competition because the top three finishing teams – outside of the six entrenched Super Rugby franchises – went through to the Premier Division.

Because of the cash crisis the Kings battled in this competition as well, with only two wins in 14 outings.

At this stage, EP have not made any announcements regarding coaching and player recruitment for next season.

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