SuperSport
3 minute read
23 Apr 2021
06:19

New round of derbies is fine for the Boks

SuperSport

When it was announced this week that the overseas leg of the Rainbow Cup had to be canned and the tournament would proceed with a local version, there would have been understandable concerns from many SA supporters and stakeholders.

When it was announced this week that the overseas leg of the Rainbow Cup had to be canned and the tournament would proceed with a local version, there would have been understandable concerns from many SA supporters and stakeholders.

They have already seen the local sides play each other regularly in the Vodacom Super Rugby Unlocked competition and Carling Currie Cup. Although there was a refreshing change with new players being added and flair injected into the team approaches in the preparation series that was concluded a few weeks ago, that provided more of the same.

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So what appetite is there for more derbies? That question would accurately reflect the general reaction on social media to the confirmation there would be no overseas games and just another series of derbies.

It is understandable — since the rugby lockdown was ended on Super Fan Saturday in the last week of last September, the Sharks and Bulls have played each other five times.

Two more games now will make it seven games in not much more than half a year. From a player welfare perspective, there should also be concern about the impact that a prolonged series of derby games could have on the bodies of the players that will be part of the Springbok challenge when the British and Irish Lions arrive.

Make no mistake, with Bok places in a Lions series up for grabs, the extra physicality that always gets injected into these fixtures by long-standing provincial/franchise rivalries and playing against people they know well will be added to this time around. When players competing for the same place in the Bok squad come up against each other, there will be nothing held back.

That could be great for viewers as intensity always makes rugby more interesting, but it could be risky for a Bok coach in Jacques Nienaber who will be wanting to see all hands on deck, and not injured, when the Lions arrive.

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But while the players are going to be playing a double round of physical derbies, the short and sharp nature of the competition is spot on. The tournament is going to be played over just seven weeks, with six games.

It is noticeable too that the length of the tournament fits in perfectly with what the Bok brains-trust of Jacques Nienaber and SA national director of rugby Rassie Erasmus pinned as the minimum amount of game time for players to get ready for international rugby when they pulled the team out of the Tri-Nations last year.

There will also presumably still be at least one warm-up test for the Boks before the Lions arrive, plus the possibility of some Currie Cup games for those players who require it, depending on when the Boks go into camp ahead of the series.

There is no denying the players need high intensity rugby in preparation for the Lions and there’s also no denying the need for them to give full effort and produce their best rugby if they want to play.

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Far from being a negative, a local franchise competition with the chance to win a new, unique trophy on the line and played out over just a few weeks might turn out to be just what everyone, including fans, players and the Bok coaches, needs as we look forward to the even bigger act that is going to follow it.