South African Rugby had no alternative but to double book whoever qualified for the final of the Rainbow Cup in terms of this weekend’s opening round of Carling Currie Cup fixtures. There weren’t any other options if a double round of the Currie Cup was to be accommodated, writes Mark Keohane.
It just so happened to be the Bulls we are talking about, but if it had been the Sharks or Stormers who had qualified for the Rainbow Cup final, then they’d be the talking point.
Nothing currently is normal in the crazy Covid-ravaged world of rugby fixtures and South African rugby has not been able to escape the abnormality, no matter how they tried to juggle the Rainbow Cup, the British & Irish Lions tour, a double header Currie Cup and the inaugural Pro Rugby league tournament, which is scheduled to start in September or October.
It was a case of being caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, especially with the Rainbow Cup final only being added to the schedule midway through the competition.
The Currie Cup schedule window was also a squeeze because of the earlier star to the new Pro Rugby season, which for the first time will include the Bulls, Sharks, Stormers and Lions.
The complication of teams going into hard bio bubbles before playing the British & Irish Lions, who open their eight-match tour against the local Lions on 3rd July at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg and play the Sharks at the same venue four days later on the 7th before playing the Bulls at Loftus on Saturday, 10th.
The Cheetahs are not playing the touring Lions, which is why they have been scheduled a bye on the opening round, with the Currie Cup schedule trying to ensure that there was no overlapping of commitment with the SA franchises who play the Lions and the Currie Cup.
At one stage it looked like the Bulls would have to play a Currie Cup fixture on the day they played the British & Irish Lions, but his has been avoided. The Sharks, though, will play a Currie Cup match just four days after playing the British & Irish Lions in Johannesburg, and will in all probability have to field two separate teams.
The nature of the 2021 Currie Cup double round is that teams will play on the weekend and midweek to complete the double round of matches.
The situation is not ideal, but then nothing is ideal when it comes to rugby and a pandemic. We should just be grateful there are fixtures at this stage.
Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White said the only way to approach the situation was to embrace it.
‘It gives another group of players an opportunity to do something special. Some good always comes out of adversity,’ White told Keo.co.za. ‘We have a group of players in Treviso this weekend, then we have players away with the junior Springboks and Sevens Springboks and we have a squad playing Western Province in the Currie Cup. It certainly will show the depth of playing resource in our province, as much as testing the quality of this playing resource.
The Bulls are the defending Currie Cup champions and White’s Bulls will look to add the Rainbow Cup title to Super Rugby Unlocked and the Rainbow Cup Conference title won last weekend, when the Bulls beat the Sharks to finish with five wins from six and nine points clear of the second placed Sharks.
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