Dobson suggests Covid points system review

Western Province coach John Dobson would be in favour of the points allocation system being relooked at when it comes to games that are called off due to Covid-19. protocols. DYLAN JACK reports.

The Currie Cup will get underway this weekend following a disrupted Super Rugby Unlocked, where three out of the 21 fixtures were called off due to positive Covid-19 Tests among the squads.

Unfortunately, this did have an impact of the integrity of Super Rugby as the Stormers and Sharks had to settle for two points each as their final round clash became the third match to be called off due to Covid protocols.

This is not to say that the Vodacom Bulls did not deserve to win Super Rugby Unlocked – they were by far the most consistent team and comfortably thrashed the Sharks and Stormers in Pretoria.

When the issue was raised during Western Province’s online press conference on Thursday, coach Dobson admitted he is concerned that more cancelled games could affect the Currie Cup.

‘The Bulls thoroughly deserved Super Rugby Unlocked. They gave their two closest rivals – us and the Sharks – a smack at Loftus,’ Dobson said. ‘We were desperately disappointed not to play last week. It was important for us, we were heading in the right direction, we wanted to maintain momentum and give more guys rugby. Seabelo [Senatla] and Jaco [Coetzee] were going to play last week.

‘You want to play every week and get better, especially after what we went through at Loftus. We were really sad and it was disruptive not to play and obviously, you lose an opportunity at those points.

‘I assume other unions are, but we are very, very strict on our guys here,’ Dobson added. ‘We basically signed off on an agreement that we are on “level four” [lockdown] which basically means no socialising, home and shop as much as we can. Obviously there are things you can’t control. We have had 11 weeks of Covid negatives in the senior squad, so I think the guys are relatively behaving. But we know that can change very quickly – freakishly and faultlessly.

‘It would become problematic in the Currie Cup. There were two teams that didn’t lose points because of Covid – the Bulls and Griquas – in Super Rugby Unlocked. It would affect the integrity of the competition, not to anybody’s fault assuming everybody follows best practice.

‘SA Rugby deserve a lot of credit for getting these competitions off the ground. It may have been easier to say that it is too risky and scrap it. But that would be really bad for the industry and the psyche.’

The current points allocation system in South Africa sees any game that is affected by Covid-19 called off and declared a draw, with both teams sharing two points each.

This is, however, different to the system currently being used in Europe. In the Autumn Nations Cup, if a team cannot fufil a fixture due to Covid-19 positive tests, the match is declared a 28-0 win in their opponent’s favour.

The English Premiership have implemented a similar system, with the team that can fulfil the fixture being awarded a full house of five points their opponents cannot do the same.

Dobson said, in order to motivate teams and players to better their behaviours and more closely follow Covid-19 restrictions, it may be worth reviewing the current points allocation in the Currie Cup.

‘I would personally like a review of the points allocation system. That’s my personal view,’ Dobson explained. ‘The two points shared and the draw is fair because we mustn’t have a situation where we say it’s your fault. But if one team can fulfil a fixture and the other team can’t it’s quite tough.

‘For example, we could well have five Covid cases next week and if some of those are among our props we might not be able to field a front row when we travel to Ellis Park. Then the Lions would have lost a home game and potentially lost another three points. It’s nobody’s fault, but you would find that our behaviours would get even better and would be better in the communities even. You just want to take no chance at losing points.

‘I just think, you would get even better behaviours among teams and unions if you run the risk of losing points. That’s all I mean. It’s not a fault thing. That’s the only thing we need to debate. The Nations Cup is going that route and the Premiership went that route with the 20-0 scores. But I also understand why it’s a draw, because you don’t want to say it’s a fault thing.

‘By all accounts, the Eastern Cape and Western Cape are going to go through a tough time Covid-wise,’ Dobson added. ‘Anything that encourages exemplary behaviour in the safety of our people – even if it’s something silly like a points attribution. If you are playing for the Stormers or Western Province and thinking of going to the V&A Waterfront mall, but you know that you could cost your team points, maybe you won’t go to the mall. That would set a good example for the community.

‘I am not coming from a petty-party this-team that-team point of view. I am just thinking that there is a real crisis and the best that we can behave, the better.’

Photo: Grant Pitcher/Gallo Images

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Dylan Jack