Currie Cup lessons learnt …

Which of the victorious Lions Currie Cup side would be picked to play in a Bok Test team to play against New Zealand next week? Sure it would depend on who the coach was, but there would be no riots on Joburg if not a single player out of the match 22 were selected!

Yet they hammered the Bok filled Sharks 42-16 in the most emphatic Absa Currie Cup final victory since 1980 at the Coke Tin on Saturday …

As said yesterday, it’s a great Currie Cup story that will add to the folklore of this magnificent tournament … The Lions, and coach John Mitchell deserve all the credit that comes their way. I also suggested that South Africa should learn the necessary lessons from this tale …

So what are these lessons?

The returning Rugby World Cup Springboks should probably not have played in the Currie Cup this year … Apart from not exactly helping Western Province or the Sharks causes, it changed the character of the tournament – and more importantly speaks to the over reliance on big name players, and the fear SA coaches have of working with the next level of talent.

It may be sad, but the Currie Cup will survive without the Springboks. And it has to because next year’s extended Super Rugby tournament, incoming tour, new Four Nations tournament and End of Year Bok tour means that the Boks will not play a single Currie Cup game …

So most Currie Cup coaches need to accept that they will not be working with many of their Super Rugby players, and use the opportunity to develop the next tier of talent.

The implementation of central contracting of players by SARU, as is done in New Zealand, would see a better spread of players round the country, and a fairer “Downsizing” of squads during the Currie Cup.

It was forced on him given his lack of returning Boks, but John Mitchell treated the Lions side as his finished product that just needed a little polishing, while Alister Coetzee and John Plumtree often spoke of the missing players. Treat players like second class citizens and they will play like second class citizens …

Develop your own talent! WP buying in Gerhardt van den Heever and Joe Pietersen, and keeping Bryan Habana while losing the likes of Francois Hougaard, Josh Strauss, Johann Sadie, JJ Engelbrecht and Tim Whitehead is beyond unacceptable. The Lions saying cheers to Jano Vermaak and having faith in Michael Bondesio is the way forward.

If players are selected, managed and coached well, South African teams can play the more attacking ball in hand modern style of rugby. If we carry on coaching the same way, we will carry on playing the same way. But if we take the time to coach players to pass to their right, and aim for gaps rather than people, then look to offload rather than go to ground, we can play a better brand of rugby …

The Currie Cup is a very different animal to Super Rugby, and the Lions will need to prove they can carry this form into the international arena next February, but SARU will have to look elsewhere for a side to cull in order to make space for their beloved EP Kings.

  • The above piece appeared as a column on Sport24 on Monday 31 October
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3 Responses to “Currie Cup lessons learnt …”

  1. TheGreenMan (@TheGreenMan_SA) Says:

    Great post Tank. I firmly believe, and agree with you, that the major problem sits with how we coach. I have said this before, and as a Grey old boy there is obviously a little bias, but the way our top schools coach is the way to go.

    All you need to do is watch a highlights package on youtube of the Ebersohn twins playing for Grey 1st XV in 2007 to realise that something is lost from one level to the next. Now obviously the step up to senior is substantial but surely some of those core attacking elements can remain?

  2. frontrowgrunt Says:

    Yep Gareth (correct?) … Too true … For a few years though, that type of game could not be played at the highest level, but the game has evolved to such an extent that it is now the modern game … Players are faster and more skilled. Also less of the experience needed in the modern game, and more of the youthful exuberance

  3. TheGreenMan (@TheGreenMan_SA) Says:

    Correct!

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