What is the Franchise Cup?
We’ve all heard about it, that it’s going to kick off next month, and that the country’s top players will be involved to keep them battle-hardened and ready for bigger challenges later in the year.
It’s meant to be a competition involving the four “big” teams who are headed to ProRugby later this year and who’ll also play in the recently launched Rainbow Cup – involving the 12 European-based ProRugby teams and the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers.
The Rainbow Cup is scheduled to take place between 17 April and 19 June – before the start of the new ProRugby season.
It is understood SA Rugby director of rugby Rassie Erasmus and Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber (above) want this country’s best players in action before the arrival of the British and Irish Lions in late June – hence the expected launch of the Franchsie Cup and the Rainbow Cup.
Travel and spectator restrictions may yet play a part in the Lions tour though, if it does take place, and the Rainbow Cup could also still be affected by Covid.
The Franchise Cup, however, is almost certain to be played locally, from next month, until April, but right now there is no clarity on who’ll be a part of it or the structure.
Pumas coach Jimmy Stonehouse said at the weekend – following his team’s Currie Cup win against a weakened Bulls team – he hoped SA Rugby had taken notice of the performance and leads to his team being included in the Franchise Cup.
After an arduous few weeks the Pumas players have been given a two-week break, as have the Griquas players, who are also uncertain about when their next game will be.
“It’s been a mentally and physically challenging few weeks and months,” said Griquas coach Scott Mathie.
“The guys are off until February 1 and by then we’ll hopefully know what’s happening.”
Mathie said he wasn’t sure about his team being involved in the Franchise Cup.
“I’d heard the competition would be for the five big franchises – that is the Bulls, Lions, Sharks, Stormers and Cheetahs – and that we and the Pumas would play in the SA Cup (the qualification tournament for the Currie Cup later this year).
“I must admit, I’m not sure what the future holds. Covid has complicated many things and the dynamics change all the time.”
With the Southern Kings franchise liquidated and no longer a rugby entity, the survival of rugby in the Eastern Cape rests with the EP Elephants, under the guidance of former Bok coach Peter de Villiers, and they also have their eyes on the Franchise Cup.
Former Kings director of high performance Robbi Kempson, though, felt a team like the Elephants would struggle in a Franchise Cup.
“The Elephants have a few club guys and varsity players in training and I can’t see how they’d be competitive at all,” he said.
“Finances are also a problem and we all know how expensive it is to do Covid testing twice a week. The travel costs are also high.”
Added Mathie: “We must also remember the smaller unions rely heavily on the amateur teams to draw players from, and with no amateur rugby set to be played until at least June, it’s tough.
“I feel for SA Rugby though; everything they want to do is dependent on the pandemic and the government. What’s most important though is that rugby survives and that means everyone must do what they can to ensure this happens.”
It is understood SA Rugby are discussing the structure of the Franchise Cup and will finalise details towards the end of this month, following the conclusion of the Currie Cup.