Namibia Rugby Union (NRU) chief executive officer Sybrand de Beer has welcomed the Welwitschia’s inclusion in next year’s Currie Cup in South Africa, saying it comes at a time when Namibian players are in need of such exposure.
First contested in 1889, the Currie Cup is South Africa’s oldest domestic rugby competition and with the addition of Namibia to the 2016 edition, the competition has now been expanded to a seven-month long tournament, which overlaps the Super Rugby season.
The South African Rugby Union (SARU) confirmed on Friday that the domestic rugby championship would include 15 teams and 166 matches, up from the 76 games in 2015 – with every team facing every other team in the first stage of the competition between April 9 and July 23.
The Vodacom Super Rugby unions will move on to the Premier Division, with the three non-franchise teams with the greatest number of log points. The remaining six will contest the First Division title.
The second stage competitions will also be played over a single round. Points will not be carried over from the first stage. Both the Premier and First Division will have semifinals, while the final in both divisions will take place at the home venue of whichever team was highest placed at the end of the second phase.
Speaking to New Era Sport yesterday, de Beer said Namibia’s invitation to participate in next year’s Currie Cup fits well with the NRU’s Legacy Programmes, which aim to continue mentoring and exposing local talent at high-level competitions, such as the Currie Cup and the Vodacom Cup, amongst others.
“We welcome this opportunity with both hands. It will be good for our players, especially the guys who still need exposure at that level, as the Currie Cup is one of the toughest competitions and the exposure is also great. The NRU is currently in the process of establishing an academy, which will consist of players that will be prepared for such competitions and also to feed the national team,” said de Beer.
Making the announcement, SARU chief executive officer Jurie Roux said new formats had also been agreed for Under-19 and Under-21 competitions for the six Super Rugby teams and the Leopards – in recognition of the strength of the Pukke Rugby Institute – while the non-Super Rugby teams would contest only the Under-20 competition.
Roux said: “The Currie Cup will kick off earlier than for many years and will feature more matches than ever. We hope that the heritage of the trophy will fire the passion of supporters once more. We have also retained the intensity of the contest for the trophy with the Premier Division and First Division competitions in the second stage and I’m sure the battle for places in the top division will be feverish.”
– Additional reporting by Supersport