In the good old days, when we were out of international rugby, the Currie Cup was the one competition which allowed us to express our affection for the game.
Provincialism was not frowned upon then – it was akin to national pride. Having your neighbour support the arch enemy was akin to treason, unlike today, where Bulls supporters in the Cape have actually come out of the closet.
There is still some of that around – here in the Cape, All Black supporters are plentiful, and not shy to display bumper stickers and even wear the dreaded black jumpers.
In Springbok history, there were some players who were elected for the national side before playing provincial rugby. I am sure that some of our rugby historians, reading this, will be able to share a few names. These days, there are a few intermediate steps to help groom prospects before they take on the highest honours.
The Currie Cup has taken on new meaning as an extension of another extremely successful development in SA rugby – the Varsity Cup. A player like Demetri Catrakilis made his name in the latter competition, then played a major part in Western Province putting the Currie Cup back in its right place, and was even invited to join the Bok squad earlier this year.
Who can we look forward to seeing cementing their chances of national colours by excelling in the Currie Cup?
The Blue Bulls, as usual, are brimming with prospects, and the excellent development structures, coupled with some seriously talented seniors as mentors, should see a number of youngsters staking a claim. The fact that the captain this weekend is an Engelsman must be a pointer to just how highly Jono Ross (pictured above) is rated in Pretoria. Handré Pollard is another very talented youngster destined for national selection. From a personal perspective, I rate Jurgen Visser very highly, almost in the same mould as Jesse Mogg of Australia.
Western Province seems extremely adept at raising them brilliant, but small. Cheslin Kolbe is the latest pocket rocket to emerge from the Cape, and while I rate him as very exciting, size is likely to matter on the road ahead. Pat Howard and Louis Schreuder are two names that come to mind, looking at the weekend’s team sheet.
The Sharks team for the match against Griquas show a lot of household names. A better season than they had in the Super 15 is needed to lift some of the prospects into the limelight. Only time will tell if Brynard Stander will follow the example set by Marcell Coetzee.
The Cheetahs have arguably the finest factory for producing quality players in the form of Grey College, and this year will see a few more candidates make their mark. Their style of play lends itself to players being able to catch the eye, and the success of the Cheetahs in the Super 15 led to promotion to the national side for a number of players. There are still enough older hands around to provide stability and guidance to the youngsters, so we can expect the usual good harvest from the Free State this year.
Griquas battle to compete when it comes to buying top notch players, yet the likes of another Willie le Roux is likely to emerge from this tough as diamonds side this year.
The Lions will want to use the Currie Cup to develop the talent required for the next Super 15 series, and the good showing of UJ in the Varsity Cup will no doubt influence their selection this year. The one name that stands out in the team sheet for this weekend is Stokkies Hanekom, but I am sure there are a few more that Lions supporters will no doubt let me know of.
The Sharks lead by example: Ladies attend the match for free tomorrow night, as does scholars.
Leker rus, en bring jou huiswerk op datum, ou Grote. Daar lê groot dinge voor, later in die jaar.