Currie Cup

Two key factors combine to save Bulls-Lions' Currie Cup derby

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Bulls CEO Edgar Rathbone.
Bulls CEO Edgar Rathbone.
Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images
  • Proactiveness and SA Rugby's initial scheduling were key factors in the Bulls and Lions being able to agree on a new date for their Currie Cup derby.
  • Edgar Rathbone, the Bulls chief, pointed out the circumstances were different to the four other Covid-affected fixtures that were cancelled previously.
  • He also disagreed with suggestions on social media that the Bulls have been given an unfair advantage by being able to reschedule the match.

Proactive negotiations and favourable scheduling allowed the Bulls and Lions to re-arrange their Currie Cup derby, which will now take place on 6 January.

In the context of the domestic programme it's a significant development given that the fixture - which would originally have taken place on Saturday night - is the first of the campaign not to have been cancelled due to Covid-19 protocols.

Three Super Rugby Unlocked matches - the Lions-Cheetahs, Lions-Pumas and Sharks-Stormers - as well as the Bulls' Currie Cup meeting with Griquas last weekend were scrapped and declared draws as no suitable alternative dates could be found.

"In terms of protocol, the option has always been there for teams to reschedule if a match was at risk. There needs to be an agreement between the two relevant unions," Edgar Rathbone, the Bulls CEO, said on Tuesday.

"We were lucky that we reached that agreement with the Lions by the end of last week already. We saw there might be a risk. We were in a favourable position in that our bye and the Lions' were a week apart from each other.

"So there was a gap there and luckily the Pumas, with (chief) Marius (van Rensburg) and (head coach) Jimmy (Stonehouse) agreed to move our fixture against them to the Sunday (10 January)."

The new dates, however, led to criticism from social media users over whether the Bulls are being unfairly advantaged by still being able to fulfil their matches, while other teams haven't been enabled to do the same. 

"I don't believe that. We have to play two games within a week leading up to the playoffs," said Rathbone.

"The Lions, who've had two matches cancelled before, will be in the same boat. It protects the integrity of the competition. It's important that this match gets played."

He also emphasised SA Rugby's initial planning was, unwittingly, key to the match's new date.

"People will ask why the Griquas game also couldn't be rescheduled, but it's difficult to do when a team played on a Saturday and has to play the next Saturday again," said Rathbone.

"It's hugely challenging then to fit in a fixture during that mid-week. So, in this case, the Lions would've played on the Saturday (before the rescheduled fixture) and we wouldn't have. We'll play the following Sunday, but the Lions have their bye."

As a result, the Bulls didn't conduct their usual round of Covid-19 testing on Monday as the "substantial number" of positive cases within the squad still haven't completed their 10-day isolation period while also allowing the rest of the self-isolating group to minimise their exposure.

That will now take place on Sunday.

"It will allow us to get a more clearer picture on where we stand in terms of the outbreak," said Rathbone.

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