RUGBY: Jon Swift
WITH the emphasis so firmly on the trials and tribulations of the South African team in New Zealand, there is cause for a pause and a thought on the future of the Lion Cup which reaches semi-final stage this weekend.
The national side will continue to play tests both home and away and, in doing so, rightly skim off the cream of this country’s rugby talent.
The Super 10 Series — although there must be doubts about its future, especially next year with the World Cup happening — remains the focus of provincial attention.
And the Currie Cup remains the premier provincial competition inside the borders of the new South Africa.
What then, remains the benefit of conducting yet another competition — added to the early season Nite Series — which can only result in yet another meeting in yet another final of two of the top provincial sides?
The Lion Cup has the merit of allowing the lesser provincial lights a chance to match strength — albeit with the initial advantage of a built-in points lead — against the big guns. But even with that in-built jump start, there is seldom any doubt that two of the top sides will come storming through to the final.
True, this weekend gives Transvaal, smarting from the 30-28 Currie Cup defeat at the hands of Eastern Province last Saturday, a chance for revenge in their semi-final against the men from Port Elizabeth.
And it will certainly give Joel Stransky and Western Province, languishing at the foot of the Currie Cup log despite some stirring performances, a chance to show their true worth against high-riding Free State at Newlands.
But surely, the outcome of these two matches with so much happening — both on and off the field — adds up to just too much rugby.
Granted, this has been an exceptionally busy 12 months for the game in this country. But can we really expect any different in the future? I for one doubt it.
In the days when we were isolated and shunned by the rest of the rugby-playing — and non-rugby-playing — world, it made sense to nurture the game wherever possible.
But with the opening of doors, the advent of the Super 10 and tours aplenty, this argument doesn’t really hold water any more.
Some serious thought must go into the future of the Lion Cup. It only serves to add another cog to an already unwieldy machine.