A South African version of New Zealand’s Super Rugby Aotearoa and Super Rugby AU in Australia is the latest plan on the table for a return to rugby in SA, with a single round Currie Cup to follow.
SA’s Super Rugby competition would feature the four franchises playing each other twice (a total of six games each) and the top two teams on the standings would then go into a final, with no quarters or semis.
After a one-week break the Currie Cup would begin and would include Griquas, the Pumas and possibly the Cheetahs (depending on whether the PRO14 resumes) with the final on 19 December.
The shift of focus from the original plan of one big, powerful Currie Cup is apparently because of pressure from broadcasters and sponsors for there to be a Sanzaar-run approximation of Super Rugby. A team like the Lions, for example, reportedly need to play Super Rugby to fulfil their contractual obligations to title sponsors Emirates.
Sharks coach Sean Everitt said yesterday that this is the scenario facing rugby in SA.
“But I must stress to the public that there is no clarity or confirmation just yet. These are the proposals that are being looked at but nothing is cast in stone,” Everitt said.
One of the big questions to be answered is whether these two competitions will be played in a “bio-bubble” or whether the teams will be allowed to travel.
“One idea is that teams could charter a plane to travel to a match and then afterwards travel home on the same plane,” Everitt said. “But, again, at this stage we don’t know for sure how it will work.”
Everitt was speaking from Kings Park on a day when SA’s players at last returned to training, albeit under restrictions.
“For the first two weeks we will be sticking to fitness and conditioning – the guys are in the gym and running on the field in batches of no more than five. There is no handling of the ball allowed yet. This will come in weeks three and four when skills training is permitted,” he said.
If and when a local Super Rugby competition kicks off, Everitt envisages a different landscape to that of pre-lockdown when the Sharks topped the overall log after seven rounds, with the Stormers performing moderately and the Lions and Bulls struggling.
“The Bulls and the Lions have recruited wisely during lockdown – their forward packs will be transformed,” Everitt said. “The Bulls (under new coach Jake White) have brought home a number of very experienced, top-class players from Europe. They have a lot of expertise and bulk now. In fact I would say they are probably our most experienced team now and they will be much improved.
“Likewise at the Lions… They have signed Burger Odendaal, Roelof Smit, Jaco Kriel, Carlu Sadie, Wiehahn Herbst and Ruan Dreyer – those are experienced players that will make a big difference. The Stormers didn’t need to recruit given the quality of their players and they will be pleased that they didn’t really lose anyone. They have kept the likes of Frans Malherbe, Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Steven Kitshoff…”