SA Rugby has announced that the Currie Cup Premier and First Divisions will be back to normal this year, while also confirming new provincial U20 competitions after last year’s Covid-19 interruption.
In a statemement released on Thursday, SA Rugby announced the domestic competitions’ structure for the remainder of 2021, along with other plans for the forthcoming season against the backdrop of on-going uncertainties caused by the pandemic.
With the PRO14 Rainbow Cup SA and Women’s Premier Division already in full swing, the Women’s First Division starting in June, and plans for a two-Test series against Georgia, the Rugby Championship schedule and an U20 International Series already announced, SA Rugby has confirmed plans for the Currie Cup and Provincial U20 competitions.
The Currie Cup Premier Division will again feature seven teams over a double round of action, with a number of midweek games scheduled, while the First Division, also consisting of seven teams, returns to the local rugby calendar after being cancelled last year. Both Currie Cup competitions are scheduled to kick off on the weekend of 18-19 June.
In the Currie Cup Premier Division the Bulls will defend their title against the Sharks, Western Province, Lions, Cheetahs, Pumas and Griquas. The top-four teams on the log at the end of the league phase will qualify for the semi-finals, followed by the final on Saturday, 11 September.
In the opening round, the Lions travel to Nelspruit to face the Pumas in Nelspruit, Griquas and the Sharks clash in Kimberley, and the Bulls host Western Province in a North-South derby in Pretoria. The Cheetahs have a bye.
Boland, Border, Eastern Province, the Griffons, Leopards, South Western Districts Eagles and Valke will face off over a single round in the Currie Cup First Division, a tournament that will culminate in a final on 14 August.
Eastern Province take on the Leopards, SWD face the Valke and Border start with a tough match against the Griffons in the first round, while the Boland Kavaliers have a bye.
Other tournaments scheduled to take place are two U20 series, with the provinces competing in the Cup and Shield competitions, while a Women’s First Division competition is scheduled to start on Saturday, 12 June.
This competition will be played over a single round with the Cheetahs, Griffons, Griquas, Leopards, Lions, Limpopo Blue Bulls, Pumas, SWD and Valke split into two pools. The two pool winners will contest the First Division final, which will be played as a curtain raiser to the Premier Division final on 17 July.
The U20 Cup competition – played over a single round of matches starting on 7 August – will be contested by the Bulls, Cheetahs, Eastern Province, Leopards, Lions, Sharks and Western Province, with the final scheduled for 2 October.
Griquas, Pumas, Griffons, Valke, Border, SWD, Boland and Limpopo will play for the U20 Shield, split up in two pools over a single round, starting on 28 August, concluding with the final on 25 September.
Plans to host the SA Rugby Youth Weeks are also in the pipeline and will be announced in due course.
‘It has been very difficult to plan for the new season in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, and a number of variables may yet change our plans, but we are very pleased to see the return of the Carling Currie Cup First Division and the women’s leagues after a blank 2020 for them,’ SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux said.
‘Numerous factors, such as the double-round Carling Currie Cup Premier Division, potential overlapping of competitions and the Castle Lager Lions series, where four of our provincial teams have to go into bio-bubbles as a requirement, meant that we had to opt for midweek games.
‘I’d like to commend the union CEOs and coaches for working so hard on numerous calls with our rugby department to produce a workable schedule despite all the challenges, which includes a very full roster for the remainder of the season, as well as our broadcast partner for getting on board with these plans in an extraordinary season.’
SA Rugby director of rugby Rassie Erasmus said: ‘It’s a very big year for our elite men with a full Test season, including the series against the British & Irish Lions, while our top women have already set their sights on next year’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
‘We believe we have been able to build a schedule to give them the best preparation we can in the circumstances. It has been a challenge, but later this season we will be in a position where we’ve been able to phase all our provincial teams – men, women and U20s – back into action.’
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