Jacques van der Westhuyzen

Compiled by Jacques van der Westhuyzen

Head of Sport

Rugby bodies adopt new player welfare model, Currie Cup to kick off as planned

The key takeaway is that structured, individualised eight-week rest periods for all players is now accepted.

South Africa’s oldest rugby competition, the Currie Cup, will kick off as scheduled in early July following an agreement between various role players regarding scheduled rest periods for players.

This follows protracted negotiations between SA Rugby, the SA Rugby Employers Association (Sareo) and the professional players organisation (MyPlayers) and the acknowledgement that it is impossible to accommodate a simultaneous eight-week rest period for professional players in South Africa.

This is due to South Africa’s players featuring in a number of different competitions, in the northern and southern hemisphere, for 12 months of the year.

Sareo and MyPlayers have accepted that a 12-month season exists and that more individualised, player-specific rest periods should be adopted to ensure player welfare.

The new deal provides for:

• Structured, individualised eight-week rest periods for all players with formal notice periods when such breaks are to be taken;
• Adoption of World Rugby player load guidelines which are in finalisation;
• Maintenance of a strict, individual player load monitoring programme;
• Broadened scope for the Joint Committee on Contracted Players’ Safety and Welfare and utilisation of the Emergency Committee to ensure effective implementation of the new arrangements and;
• Adjusted travel arrangements for Vodacom URC/EPCR teams from 1 July 2025.

Currie Cup kick-off

The original award cast doubt on the possibility of accommodating the Currie Cup in the current season so as not overlap with the United Rugby Championship.

However, the Currie Cup Premier Division will kick off as scheduled in the first weekend of July (in a revamped format agreed by the General Council in December), while the First Division will spring into action this weekend with three matches scheduled for Saturday.

“This has been a very fruitful process, and the outcome is that we have collectively faced up to the realities of our post-COVID calendar and come up with a solution for a problem unlike any other sport that I am aware of,” said Rian Oberholzer, CEO of SA Rugby.

“Every sport, everywhere has an off-season, but we have found a way to balance the equation of maintaining our competition schedule to drive revenues for 12 months of the year, while securing player welfare. We might have had to go through an arbitration to help concentrate minds, but the result is a good one.

“The importance of player welfare was never in doubt. The challenge was to find ways to accommodate all needs. I’d like to thank MyPlayers and Sareo for constructively working their way towards this solution.”

The Premier Division of the Currie Cup will kick off on the weekend of 5/6 July and will reach its climax with the final on 21 September. In an exciting new feature, the competition will be staged over one-and-a-half rounds, followed by two semi-finals and the grand finale.

The eight teams are divided into two pools of four each by virtue of last year’s standings. Pool A will consist of the Cheetahs (No 1 ranked last year), the Bulls (4), Western Province (5) and the Griffons (8).

Pool B sees the Sharks (ranked No 2), Pumas (3), Lions (6) and Griquas (7) grouped together. Teams will play home and away matches within their respective pools plus a single round of games against sides in the opposite pool.

The two-top ranked teams in each pool will progress to the semi-finals on 14 September, with the two winners set to battle it out for the famous Currie Cup in the 21 September final.

Meanwhile, the remaining six provincial sides – the Boland Kavaliers, Valke, Leopards, SWD Eagles, Eastern Province and Border – will compete against each other in the Currie Cup First Division, with five rounds of league games scheduled. The opening round is this weekend, with semi-finals scheduled for 20 July and the final for 27 July.

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