Super Rugby

EXPLAINER | How SA's combined Currie Cup/Super Rugby format will work

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Elton Jantjies (Gallo)
Elton Jantjies (Gallo)

Rugby returns to South Africa this weekend with a pre-season 'Super Fan Saturday' event at Loftus Versfeld that will see the Bulls host the Sharks (16:25) and the the Stormers take on the Lions (18:55).

It is the first competitive rugby the country has seen since the end of March - six months ago - when Super Rugby 2020 was suspended as a result of the coronavirus crisis. 

Then, the next weekend on 3 October, Newlands will host a Springbok trial match - Green v Gold - that will see the country's best take each other on in an effort to impress national head coach Jacques Nienaber ahead of a possible trip to Australia for the Rugby Championship in November. 

Before that, though, domestic competition will return on 10 October when a combined Super Rugby/Currie Cup competition gets underway. 

Because of the fact that so much rugby was lost in 2020, SA Rugby is now looking to satisfy its commercial partners in both the Super Rugby and Currie Cup spaces and, as a result, the 16-week domestic competition has been carefully structured so that there are two trophies up for grabs, but that all matches count towards one overall log. 

Here, we walk you through the competition format for the upcoming Super Rugby Unlocked and Currie Cup competitions.

Firstly, these are the seven teams that will be competing in both competitions: Sharks, Stormers, Bulls, Lions, Pumas, Griquas, Cheetahs

The 'Super Rugby Unlocked' competition starts on 10 October and will see the sides play against each other once - six matches each - through until 21 November. 

At that point, whoever has accumulated the most log points will be crowned South African Super Rugby Unlocked champions. 

From 28 November, the Currie Cup leg of the competition will get underway. ALL log points from the Super Rugby Unlocked competition will carry over as the sides then meet each other once again. 

It is at this point where the Stormers will start playing as Western Province, it is expected, as the franchises turn into unions for the remainder of the season. 

There will be another six matches each for the sides, and by January 9, 2021, all seven sides will have played a total of 12 matches dating back to the start of the competition on 10 October. 

The top four teams on that log will then qualify for the Currie Cup semi-finals on 16 January with the Currie Cup final the following weekend on 23 January. 

Because of the format, the Currie Cup will be in the rare position of being considered more valuable than Super Rugby, but the nature of 2020 means that nothing is normal anymore. 

The stronger sides in the competition, and the quality of the overall product, could be severely dented if the Springboks do play in the Rugby Championship in November, but there is no clarity yet on whether or not that will happen. 

Another unique element is that, for the first time in recent memory, there will be competitive Currie Cup rugby taking place over the festive season. 

Sport24 will be keeping you up to date with all developments this rugby season - from Griquas to the Springboks - starting with this weekend's action at Loftus. 

- Compiled by Lloyd Burnard 

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