Boks or not in Cup?

2014-08-02 00:00

CAPE TOWN — Certain contracted Springboks may yet see action in the 2014 Currie Cup, despite reports this week to the contrary.

But it seems the only ones who will feature in the time-honoured domestic competition will be any who don’t crack the nod for Bok coach Heyneke Meyer’s squad for the Castle Lager Rugby Championship that is to be named today (around 2 pm).

Saru yesterday moved to clarify the reports, which were sparked when John Smit, chief executive of the Currie Cup-holding Sharks, revealed on the franchise’s website: “It was decided upon that all contracted Boks will play no part in the Currie Cup.”

The national body say that following a request from them to the provinces, the contracted Springboks selected for the Championship will not play any part in the Absa Currie Cup.

Saru CEO Jurie Roux says: “The Springboks are our first priority and the provinces have been very supportive, which we’re very thankful for.

“While it’s impossible to put a blanket ban across all contracted Springboks to play for their provinces, the players utilised in the Championship will be managed on an individual basis as the necessity arises — most of them won’t play any part in the Currie Cup, though.”

Reading between the lines, it appears that some players may get game-time in the provincial competition if it is deemed necessary for the sake of their gradual rehabilitation from injuries or if they are suddenly needing action to stave off the risk of rustiness because they aren’t featuring consistently in Bok match-day line-ups.

What clearly won’t happen this year is the mass infusion of top-tier Boks at the business end of the Currie Cup (for instance, the semi-finals onward) as has happened in the past, thus occasionally robbing players who have done the honest, round-robin hard yards of cherished places in the showpiece.

The provinces will now be particularly interested in which of the 17 or thereabouts contracted, home-based Boks for 2014 crack the nod for Meyer’s Championship squad today.

There are a few whose stocks have arguably dipped a bit this year — names that come to mind include the Stormers/WP flank Siya Kolisi and Bulls utility back JJ Engelbrecht. Neither has replicated in 2014 promising strides made last season or before that.

But Meyer may also have been mulling over how (or even whether) to employ yet some of his long-time favoured green-and-gold personnel who have been sidelined for considerable periods through injury and might benefit from some lower-tier activity first.

Into that category could fall such players as first-choice captain Jean de Villiers, Eben Etzebeth and perhaps even Pat Lambie, who started the Sharks’ heavy Super Rugby semi-final loss to the Crusaders in Christchurch last weekend after many weeks of inactivity but looked alarmingly off his customary standards following his bicep tear.

Broadly speaking, it seems strongly in the national interest, given that a World Cup is now little more than a year away, for blue-chip Springboks to completely sidestep this year’s Currie Cup, even if it impacts on public interest towards the end of it.

More and more, the tournament is being squeezed out of prime territory in the Southern Hemisphere season any­way by the ongoing expansion of Super Rugby. It now must be treated increasingly as a development tool for franchise players with the ability to step into the Super Rugby arena and enhance the depth of our squads in that competition.

This year’s Currie Cup, for instance, may now see a more pronounced fast-tracking now of brightest U21 or even U20 talent nationwide, and new faces like these may only prove refreshing for spectators.

The swift emergence from the age-group ranks in recent years of names like Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jan Serfontein and, rather more recently, the barrelling Sharks loosehead prop rookie Thomas du Toit, shows that such opportunities can pay startling dividends.

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