The ongoing debate about the Currie Cup format took an intriguing twist with a suggestion that a pre-season play-off series should determine who plays in the Premier Division.
According to a report in the Afrikaans daily, Die Burger, the latest proposal will be tabled at a meeting of the general council of the South African Rugby Union on January 31.
According to the newspaper the proposal, tabled by the Leopards, suggests that the Currie Cup competition be expanded from six to eight teams – with a pre-season play-off series between the nine so-called minor unions, following the completion of the Vodacom Cup.
The five current Super Rugby franchises – the big five so to speak – would not take part in the play-offs. They are the Blue Bulls, Free State Cheetahs, Golden Lions, Sharks and Western Province.
According to the report the Pumas, who qualified for the Premier Division by beating Griquas in a two-match promotion-relegation series last year, and the Eastern Province Kings will also be guaranteed places at the Currie Cup head table.
That leaves one place to be contested for – with Boland Cavaliers, Border Bulldogs, Falcons, Griffons, Griquas, Leopards and South Western Districts Eagles doing battle for the eighth spot.
“The Kings should be guaranteed a place [in the expanded Currie Cup competition] to ensure they can prepare for their re-entry into Super Rugby in 2016,” Leopards Chief Executive Louis du Plessis told Die Burger.
The Kings, who were eliminated from Super Rugby after just one season, when the Lions beat them in a promotion-relegation series, have apparently agreed to relinquish their right to a promotion-relegation series for the next two years if they are guaranteed a place in the Premier Division.
“The aim is to get some stability in the game in South Africa,” Kings CEO Charl Crous told the newspaper.
Previous attempts to expand the Currie Cup competition failed, most notably late last year when six of the 14 provinces voted against it – based on the proposal that the Kings are guaranteed a spot at the top table.
The new proposal means that even with the Kings given a guarantee, all the other provinces still have a shot at playing in the Premier Division.