Calling all passionate fans

2007-08-30 10:31

JJ Harmse

Who will we be talking about in SA rugby in a month from now?

Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield?

Bryan Habana perhaps?

Hopefully about all three and their importance in a possible Rugby World Cup quarter-final or semi-final.

Or even better, the final itself.

But while we have 30 warriors over in France, life will go on for the Lions, Bulls, Boland and others in the Currie Cup.

The Cheetahs will have strengthened their grip on a home final, the Lions and Griquas will be fighting for the fourth and final semi-final spot and poor Western Province might even be playing relegation/promotion rugby against the Griffons.

The Griffons, bolstered by some Sharks and Cheetahs fringe players, are playing up a storm along with SWD in the First Division and life is good in Welkom at the moment.

The Under-21 and Under-19 competitions are also underway and with a lot of expectation around the strength (and diversity) of our junior teams, should again provide plenty of action.

If you look at JP Pietersen, Frans Steyn and Waylon Murray as youngsters who could have played in this competition, as well as the likes of Hilton Lobberts, Brad Barritt and Chiliboy Ralepelle, it is clear that some exciting times lie ahead indeed.

Contention

There's a lot to play for in the junior ranks as well.

Super 14 places, to be exact.

With a huge number of provincial players leaving our shores at the end of the season, 2008 should see players currently competing at Under-21 level this year, come into contention next season.

The Under-19 competition also has the added incentive of an Under-20 World Cup next year and coach Eric Sauls will be looking at candidates for the national team, no doubt.

In the last five years the Blue Bulls have swept the floor with their foes in these age group competitions and will be looking to win both titles again for a sixth time in 2007.

The likes of the Sharks and Lions, realising that the best foundations are laid in a good youth structure, have invested heavily in those areas and the age grade competitions should be as entertaining and strong as the Currie Cup itself.

I have a feeling that the second round of the Currie Cup is going to live up to expectations.

Last year, many were unsure about the quality of rugby when Jake White pulled the likes of Victor Matfield, Fourie du Preez and John Smit from the competition.

It turned out to be one of the most exciting in a long while, with the draw in the final indicative of how close things were at the top of the pile.

All of that manifested in a great Super 14 season thereafter.

Some Currie Cup stars of last year, like Kabamba Floors, Jaco Pretorius and Gio Aplon, did not make the same impact in Super 14 and to be honest, the Cheetahs failed to live up to the tag of being the best side in the country.

Appetite

But overall, there was a great feel-good factor in SA rugby after the Currie Cup ended.

That feeling continued through the Super 14 and even beating a weakened England did not dampen the spirits or the appetite for the showpiece in France.

After our Tri-Nations showing and with the World Cup upon us, the realities of possible failure will cause anxiety among some fans, whilst others, especially those who have spent money to travel to France, will be hoping the Boks can repeat the 1995 glory days.

Whatever happens, I am still hoping for a massive local season.

The Currie Cup stirs the emotion like nothing else and long may it continue.

There will be doom and gloom if we fail to get past the quarter-finals in France, but how great will two epics in the semi-finals of the Currie Cup a week later not be to lift our spirits?

In an ideal world of course, the Boks will reach the final and the quality of play in the Currie Cup will give fans a double dose of delight.

Even better, what if we bring the Webb Ellis Cup home like in 1995 and the country again comes alive?

We are certainly in need of some nation-building and something to lift the doom and gloom of crime, unemployment, Aids and illegal immigrants.

It is time for all of us to embrace each other as South Africans, to find that common ground of belonging and be proudly South African.

Winning the World Cup will do that.

For the rugby connoisseur, that will be important, but another dose of quality Currie Cup rugby will do them fine as well, thank you.

Even better if you have tickets to the final in Bloem!

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