Fresh faces made a name for themselves while experienced campaigners showed their class in what was an epic Currie Cup, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.
There’s life in the Currie Cup yet. While no longer the be-all and end-all of South African rugby, the 2019 competition was the most enthralling and competitive edition in recent history and should be celebrated as a return to form.
Saturday’s final reminded of the competition’s glory days with almost 40 000 fans turning up to the Toyota Stadium to watch the Free State Cheetahs and Golden Lions put on a highly-entertaining high-octane show to finish the competition on a high.
All these factors made it clear that when it comes to the Currie Cup in the modern oversaturated era, less is more. The single-round format grabbed and kept fans’ attention as every match mattered.
It produced memorable upsets – none bigger than the Pumas’ 27-20 win over the defending champion Sharks in Nelspruit – enabled Griquas to return to the semi-finals for the first time since 1998 (with their lack of depth not as detrimental as in past longer seasons) and thrilling action throughout.
This year’s Currie Cup unearthed new stars, polished prospects, reintroduced forgotten/overlooked players and saw big-name stars showcase their international experience.
Four members of the triumphant Cheetahs, who were full value for their 31-28 win at the weekend, have been included in our Team of the Tournament, including the Player of the Tournament.
Losing finalists the Lions have six representatives in the side, semi-finalists the Sharks and Griquas have two each while a Pumas standout also made the cut.