Currie Cup Qualifier preview (Round 1)

The expanded Currie Cup will begin its battle for attention when the new-look competition kicks off on Thursday night, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

Currie Cup rugby in April? Yes, that's right. With Super Rugby in full flight, the fact that the Currie Cup effectively gets underway this weekend has flown largely under the radar.

Yet, in many respects, the new Currie Cup qualifying series effectively replaces the now defunct Vodacom Cup, simply in a different guise. The revamped domestic competition has now welcomed newcomers from Namibia, while 14 teams from South Africa are set to swing into action.

The Super Rugby unions are already assured of qualification for the Currie Cup Premier Division later this year, while the qualifying series offers an opportunity for three more teams to earn promotion into that competition. The rest will compete in the First Division.

Yet, just as the Vodacom Cup did, the Currie Cup qualifying series still holds important value for the ‘big six’ as they have an opportunity to afford fringe Super Rugby players game time and allow players returning from injury to get back in action, while also keeping an eye on their backup talent. For the non-franchise teams, the incentive of winning promotion to the Premier Division is also certainly not an insignificant one.

Griquas and the Griffons will kick off the action on Thursday, while the Golden Lions, Western Province, EP Kings, Sharks and Free State Cheetahs are all set for action over the course of Friday and Saturday.

Currie Cup Qualifier teams (Round 1)

Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images

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Craig Lewis