Cheetahs celebrate 2023 Currie Cup title win Photo via SA Rugby website

Cheetahs celebrate their 2023 Currie Cup title win. Photo: Via SA Rugby website.

BIG NEWS: Currie Cup takes on new look as SA Rugby revamps local season

The Currie Cup has been given a new window and a new format in a makeover that will allow all 14 unions to play for the coveted gold trophy from 2025 onwards.

Cheetahs celebrate 2023 Currie Cup title win Photo via SA Rugby website

Cheetahs celebrate their 2023 Currie Cup title win. Photo: Via SA Rugby website.

The Currie Cup Premier and First Divisions will be moved to a new window next year, to avoid clashing with European competitions, following feedback from member unions, broadcast, and commercial partners.

The season revamp received unanimous approval from members at SA Rugby’s General Council meeting in Cape Town on Friday.

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As a result, the Currie Cup competitions – to be contested in 2024 by the same eight Premier Division teams and six First Division sides from this year – will be played from July to the end of September.

The qualification process will also change from 2025 to provide more opportunity for all member unions to contest South Africa’s premier competition.

The Premier and First Divisions will be preceded by a local competition featuring 10 provincial sides, but will exclude the four Vodacom United Rugby Championship franchises (Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers).

This “SA Cup” (working title) competition, which will kick off the senior local calendar next year, is scheduled to be played over a single round from March to June, with semi-finals and a final determining the winner. Players will then enjoy a break before the Currie Cup starts.

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In 2025, the top four teams from the “SA Cup” competition will join the four URC franchises in the Currie Cup Premier Division, with the remaining six teams contesting the First Division. Both competitions will culminate in semi-finals and a final.

And in another major boost for the local game, SuperSport have committed to broadcast all the matches, either through their linear offering on DStv or on their various streaming platforms.

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“I think it’s fair to say that the changes to the rugby calendar over the last few years have necessitated a change in approach to the Currie Cup, which we still consider to be the pinnacle of the local calendar,” said Rian Oberholzer, CEO of SA Rugby.

“We spent many hours consulting with all relevant stakeholders, our broadcast partner and possible sponsors, and the message was clear – we need the Currie Cup to have its own window in the calendar.

“This will not only make it easier for our provincial unions when it comes to planning and contracting, but it will also be better for the broadcaster, potential sponsor and supporters.

“We believe this change in the way we approach the Currie Cup will provide it with an opportunity to reclaim its rightful place as the jewel in the local rugby crown. To win the Currie Cup remains a massive achievement – ask any of the Cheetahs or Pumas players who have lifted the trophy in the last two years – and we have to ensure it’s as competitive as possible.”

“By giving all the teams an opportunity to qualify for the Currie Cup Premier Division from 2025 onwards, we’ll also make it more appealing for sponsors at provincial level, especially as all their matches will be broadcast.”

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Other decisions that were adopted after the meeting, include the re-introduction of a single-round competition for U19 teams, and a double-round competition for U21s (Cup and Shield), while the U20 competition will be discontinued. The time frame for the U19 and U21 competitions will be confirmed in due course.

Furthermore, the dates and structure of the two women’s provincial competitions (Premier and First Division) will be similar to the 2023 season, while the Free State Women’s side – winners of the First Division – were promoted to the Premier Division for the next two years.

Currie Cup final
Toyota Cheetahs celebrating during the 2023 Currie Cup Final between the Cheetahs and the Pumas at Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein, Free State on 24 June 2023 © Charle Lombard/BackpagePix