SA Rugby has confirmed that the Currie Cup has been moved to an earlier time slot in 2019, and will run from July to September.
The status quo of the Premier Division will remain, with the Vodacom Blue Bulls, Golden Lions, Sharks, Western Province, Free State Cheetahs, Pumas and Griquas competing for the title. The tournament will take place from 3 July to 7 September to ensure that it will not overlap with Vodacom Super Rugby, the Pro14 or World Cup.
Meanwhile, the Currie Cup First Division will be bolstered by an Argentina XV and Namibia, who join SWD, Boland, the Griffons, Valke, Leopards and Eastern Province.
The Provincial Rugby Challenge will be split into two sections – North and South – with the top two teams from each section progressing to the semi-finals. The North Section will consist of Namibia, the Leopards, Valke, Golden Lions, Blue Bulls, Pumas, Griffons and Griquas. In the South Section, Zimbabwe, WP, the Boland Cavaliers, SWD Eagles, Eastern Province, the Sharks and Free State will battle it out.
The only major change in the junior competition structures will see the SA Rugby U19 competition being converted to a compact one-week tournament comprising 16 teams – the 14 provincial unions, Limpopo, and another team to be determined in due course – at a single venue.
In a new development, club players in their first year out of school will be eligible for selection, in line with the competition’s objective of unearthing new promising players who have not represented their provinces at school or junior provincial level.
The SA Rugby U20 and U21 Championships show slight changes – only six teams will play in the U21 competition (WP, Free State, the Blue Bulls, Golden Lions, Sharks and Leopards).
Eastern Province will take part in the U20 competition this year with the eight other teams – the Leopards, Griquas, Griffons, Valke, Pumas, Limpopo, SWD and Boland.
2019 SA Rugby competition dates (fixtures TBC):
26-27 April to 29 June – Provincial Rugby Challenge
5-6 July to 31 August – Currie Cup First Division
12-13 July to 7 September – Currie Cup Premier Division
6-7 September – Currie Cup promotion-relegation
21-22 June to 7 September – SA Rugby U21 Championship
12-13 July to 31 August – SA Rugby U20 Championship
21-29 September – SA Rugby U19 Championship
28 September – 9 November – Amateur Provincial Pilot Project
Photo: Gordon Arons/Gallo Images