Cape Town - The Currie Cup - the world’s oldest domestic rugby championship - will have a new look in 2016 with more matches and a new entrant, following a decision by the General Council of the South African Rugby Union (SARU) in Cape Town on Friday.
Rugby World Cup competitors, Namibia, will join the 14 South African provincial unions in a competition which was first contested in 1889. In those days the tournament was played in one centre over the course of a week. The 2016 version will now run in an expanded format from April until October.
The change means that more Currie Cup rugby will be played - 166 matches compared to 76 in 2015 - with every team facing every other team in the first stage of the competition between April 9 and July 23.
The Vodacom Super Rugby unions will move on to the Premier Division with the three non-franchise teams with the greatest number of log points. The remaining six will contest the First Division title.
The second stage competitions will also be played over a single round. Points will not be carried over from the first stage. Both the Premier and First Division will have semi-finals while the final in both divisions will take place at the home venue of whichever team was highest placed at the end of the second phase.
“The enthusiasm for the Currie Cup remains intense among our members and the new format was driven by their desire to see all teams playing each other once again,” said Jurie Roux, CEO of the South African Rugby Union.
“That stage will run in parallel to Vodacom Super Rugby with the second stage of the Currie Cup only kicking off at the conclusion of the Super Rugby log stage. The Vodacom Cup competition has been discontinued to create the space in the calendar.”
Roux said that new formats had also been agreed for Under-19 and Under-21 competitions for the six Super Rugby teams and the Leopards – in recognition of the strength of the Pukke Rugby Institute – while the non-Super Rugby teams would contest only an Under-20 competition.
Roux said: “The Currie Cup will kick off earlier than for many years and will feature more matches than ever and we hope that the heritage of the trophy will fire the passion of supporters once more.
“We have also retained the intensity of the contest for the trophy with the Premier Division and First Division competitions in the second stage and I am sure the battle for places in the top division will be feverish.”
The General Council also approved the SARU budget for 2016 and the model for distribution of broadcast revenues. The provinces will receive 56% of broadcast income with the balance attributed to the Springboks, competition expenses as well as rugby administration.