Enlarged Currie Cup beckons for Kings

Isuzu Southern Kings hooker Jacques du Toit says a derby style league will strengthen SA’s rugby culture
Isuzu Southern Kings hooker Jacques du Toit says a derby style league will strengthen SA’s rugby culture

An expanded “bio-bubble”  Currie Cup featuring the Isuzu Southern Kings could be played in Nelspruit, Potchefstroom and Kimberley if  SA Rugby bids to avoid SA’s Covid-19 hotspot centres.

One of the problems facing a restart of professional rugby is that most of SA’s major centres are designated Covid-19 hotspots.

An expanded Currie Cup would be SA’s answer to the New Zealand Aotearoa competition and Super Rugby Australia’s tournament.

SA, however, are said to be planning to go further than the four Super Rugby teams by including the Kings, Cheetahs, Griquas and Pumas.

If the new-look tournament gets off the ground the final could be played by late December.

Provided the Kings are given the green light to play in the Currie Cup, they will have to shrug off their woeful form in the Guinness PRO14 if they want to make an impression.

Kings hooker Jacques du Toit said his team would welcome the chance to battle it out against the best players in SA.

“If an SA derby style league is established it would be an excellent opportunity for SA players to be tested against one another,” Du Toit said.

“A league like this could also strengthen the SA rugby culture and could possibly increase stadium attendance.”

It will be fascinating to see how the Kings fare against teams like the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers.

Flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis has retired, and the Kings will be also without Schalk Ferreira, Sarel Pretorius and Rossouw de Klerk, whose contracts were not renewed.

Catrakilis, who had played for the Kings in Super Rugby in 2013, was one of the Kings’ biggest signings after  The Greatest Rugby Company in the Whole Wide World (GRC) took control.

They have also lost hard-running centre Howard Mnisi to the Cheetahs and insiders say the versatile Masixole Banda could be on his way to play for Griquas in a mooted Currie Cup tournament.

Sharks CEO Eduard Coetzee the government was doing its best to help rugby resume.

“The government is trying to find a way for us and they have been really positive,” Coetzee said.

“If it comes together, we are looking at a very exciting, expanded Currie Cup-type competition which will be strength versus strength and have our Springboks in action.

“Our turn to play again will come.

“There is a bigger picture for us and all the stakeholders are on the same page, and we will get on the field, even if it means playing in a ‘bio bubble’ with no fans.”

There has been talk that the competition and teams will be based in a location far away from the country’s Covid-19 hotspots in Nelspruit, Potchefstroom or Kimberley.

Coetzee said the Sharks would be ready to answer any call to action.

“We have spent the past two weeks fitness-testing the boys and I am pleased to report that they are in really good shape,” he said.

“Most are on the same levels of fitness they were before Super Rugby was halted and a few are even fitter.

“Huge credit must be given to the conditioning staff for how they have worked with the players in lockdown, and to the players themselves who have been really professional.

“During the “transfer window” the Sharks lost three players in Louis Schreuder, Tyler Paul and Jean Schoeman.

This was offset by the gain of Bulls flyhalf Manie Libbock and Sevens star Werner Kok.

“If this was a year ago, when the players were so unhappy, we would have lost all of them.

“A lot of them had really good offers, so credit must go to the coaching staff for creating an environment in which the players wanted to stay.

“And hopefully in the next few weeks we will be able to announce contract extensions that will make fans and sponsors very happy.”

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